I have quite a complicated relationship with musicals. Truth be told I am just not sure if I really like them. I always want to go see ‘the classics’ and there are days I find myself happily writing away listening to musical hits, and yet so often when I do go to see them I just don’t enjoy them. They can be just too twee and sweet for my drama living self, and generally just too much!
So normally when I get invited to review a new musical I’ve not heard of it will take a lot to make me turn my head towards it. Miss Nightingale drew me in with four things, it’s set in the 1940’s, it revolves around an LGBT narrative, it’s being performed in The Vaults which is quickly becoming one of my favourite performing arts venues in London, and the company that created it are from Sheffield. I just had to check it out.
The Vaults provides a blank canvas for performances to wrap around and the company had done a great job here. This is the largest seated performance I have ever seen at The Vaults, and from the ration chocolate bar I was handed on the way in, to the 1940’s decor in the foyer, to the modern twist on war posters around the theatre, the stage was set for what you are about to view. Straight away it helps set the tone and time period of the show.
The story revolves around a northern nurse who comes to London to help with the war effort where she meets two men who can make her a star. The two men fall in love beneath the backdrop of bombs, corruption and homophobia. Don’t be fooled by the dark sounding plot, this is a hilarious music hall romp that made me laugh out loud more than I have in any theatre show of late.
The cabaret club style, with big musical numbers when Miss Nightingale appears as her on stage persona, lift the whole performance with it’s upbeat tunes and hilarious lyrics, the music is written wonderfully. The fact that I have had a song or two buzzing around in my head ever since having only heard them once is a great testament to this, it was literally toe-tapping fun. Even the most cynical of London audiences find themselves won over by this northern charm a few songs in.
The humour is very tongue-in-cheek, and although this initially gains just small titters, as the audience slowly relax into the style there were some real belly laugh moments, especially in the second act. Don’t expect too much intellectualising here, it’s more ‘carry-on camping’ with a Yorkshire accent and much more charm.
The second act allows the actors to show some real moments of dramatic tension. Conor O’Kane shines through in the role of George when it comes to the moments of real drama, which is balanced out by Miss Nightingale (Tamar Broadbent) for the comedic highlights. Overall it was well performed by the cast.
Even though the show was great fun it wasn’t without it’s faults, there were definitely instances where comic timing could really do with an overhaul and in general the performers seemed much more comfortable when working with the music then with the occasionally clunky dialogue. A very minor point but as a vintage loving blogger I just have to comment about how the inauthenticity of the 1940’s hair styles on Miss Nightingale. Yes it’s a little thing and I’m sure not everyone would noticed but it was a detail which bothered me and could be fixed fairly easily to add a touch of polish. Also although the stripped back instruments fit in really well with the music hall style it did sometimes cause some sound balancing issues, especially at the start when the drums drowned out the vocals. Thankfully this appeared to improve as the numbers moved on.
If you are looking for a naughty but nice evening out with a few decent laughs and a good sing along, then look no further than Miss Nightingale, it is a delight. Catch it at The Vaults until the 20th of May 2017.