The fifth production of Miss Nightingale since its conception in 2011 and has set up home at The Vaults in Waterloo. The venue could not be more perfect for a war-time musical where bombs are dropping in the streets. The old vaults with bare brick walls and cold musky smell, make you feel like you are in an air raid shelter.
Miss Nightingale is a gay love story, set in 1940’s London, during a time where theatre started to become an important part of people’s lives – an escape from the terror around them. Miss Nightingale (played by the brilliant comedy musician Tamar Broadbent) is a saucy cabaret singer who dreams of making a difference in the world and makes people smile with her naughty songs, full of innuendo. Songs like ‘The Pussy Song’ and ‘Sausage Song’ should give you a good idea of the direction this musical takes you in!
Frank and George are having a secret love affair but when Maggie (Miss Nightingale)’s boyfriend finds out, he blackmails Frank into paying him off so he doesn’t tell the police about his sodomistic behaviour (it was still very much illegal in those days). Maggie has found herself pregnant with a child out of wedlock and her boyfriend Tom has no interest in marrying her as he already has a wife.
Frank has an idea that could solve his problems but George isn’t too happy about it as it means taking advantage of his best friend Maggie in the process. Can they overcome the issues they find themselves faced with or will they all be shamed for the rest of their lives for their lifestyle decisions?
Tamar Broadbent is perfectly cast as cabaret singer Miss Nightingale. The comedically saucy songs feel like they were written for her and she delivers the lines with shocking hilarity. It is as though Victoria Wood is being channeled through her on stage. Equally as impressive is Nicholas Contu-Langmead as Frank who marches around the stage like Basil Fawlty. Conor O’Kane is great as lover George who is unapologetic about his sexuality and just wishes Frank would let go of his fears and embrace their life together. And Maggie’s cheating boyfriend Tom (Niall Kerrigan) grins away on stage, reminiscent of Rodney Trotter and is adorable to watch.
This is a brilliantly well written show, with a hilarious script and wonderful songs. The serious subject matter of some of the scenes is perfectly balanced out with comedy songs and all of the actors on stage play various instruments live on stage. The only thing that confused me was during scenes when actors took on the role of ‘band members’ instead of the characters they were playing. It was hard to differentiate between who was supposed to be on stage at what time and perhaps some slight costume changes would help to differentiate between characters.
Miss Nightingale is a must see show with a brilliant cast and incredibly well written songs.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Robert Workman
Miss Nightingale plays at The Vaults until 20 May 2017