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Review: Miss Nightingale

Every February Blackpool Tower wears its rainbow lights to mark LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans) History Month.  A few streets away from Blackpool’s most famous landmark, History Month is in full swing at the Grand Theatre as it welcomes Miss Nightingale, an original musical by Matthew Bugg.

Miss Nightingale follows the fortunes of nightclub singer Maggie Brown (Clara Darcy) and her friend, composer and a Jewish refugee George Nowodny (Conor O’Kane) as they beginning their careers on the London club circuit. Things start to look up when the pair catch the eye of upper class patron Sir Frank Worthington-Blythe (Nicholas Coutu-Langmead).

Maggie specialises in suggestive music hall style songs and numbers such as Let Me Play On Your Pipe and The Sausage Song will certainly raise plenty of giggles. Clara Darcy certainly knows how to deliver these risqué numbers in style, whether singing The Pussy Song in the Savoy or performing the splits on top of an upright piano, she definitely steals the scene.

Despite the glamour, lipstick and double entendres, Miss Nightingale has a grave and uncomfortable narrative fraught with frustration and deception. In a country at war, it tells the story of two men’s blossoming relationship in the heady cabaret scene of wartime London.  Set twenty five years before the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality – where a same sex relationship could result in social ostracism, blackmail and imprisonment, we’re introduced to a world where simply being together presents an enormous risk.

One of the strong points of this production are the original songs. Many of the musical numbers are part of the ‘show within a show’ and provide a light escape from the emotive and sometimes challenging Miss Nightingale - Blackpool Sausage Facebooksubject matter encountered.  However songs such as Mr Nightingale and Bluebird are touching and compliment the themes considerately. In particular those sung in a counterpoint style are used to great effect, highlighting key moments in the production.

Surprisingly, the multi-talented cast is made up of of just six actors – you could easily be fooled into thinking that there were many more. The cast not only sing but provide live musical accompaniment on a variety of instruments.

Funny, poignant and emotional, Miss Nightingale is well worth an evening of anyone’s time.

The Spring 2016 Tour continues…

 

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