Miss Nightingale: The Musical

Theatre, Off-West End
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • 5 out of 5 stars
(2user reviews)
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 (© Robert Workman)
© Robert Workman

Nicholas Coutu-Langmead, Tamar Broadbent & Conor O'Kane

 (© Robert Workman)
© Robert Workman

Conor O'Kane & Matthew Bugg

 (© Robert Workman)
© Robert Workman

Nicholas Coutu-Langmead & Conor O'Kane

 (© Robert Workman)
© Robert Workman

Tamar Broadbent

 (© Robert Workman)
© Robert Workman

Tamar Broadbent

This diverting cabaret-style musical is a story of gay love and wartime showbiz

A bunker-like auditorium in The Vaults – the multi-performance space created out of the network of tunnels under Waterloo Station – is an atmospherically subterranean location for this Blitz-set new musical. It’s steeped in an almost reverent nostalgia for the music hall, with the cast playing instruments as well as characters.

Writer and director Matthew Bugg’s production is awash with charm, as it dips into the culture of wartime musical revue. From ‘Let Me Play on Your Pipe’ to ‘The Sausage Song’, the tunes have an authentic sense of innocent cheek. Their playful innuendoes are what ‘saucy’ was coined for.   

The effect is completed by designer Carla Goodman’s lightbulb-ringed proscenium arch, through which the titular Miss Nightingale – the stage name of no-nonsense Northerner Maggie Brown – entertains, while her closeted manager, Frank, and her best friend, George, try to keep their relationship under wraps.

Conor O’Kane relishes every eye-roll as Jewish-Polish immigrant, George, and Nicholas Coutu-Langmead stiffens his upper lip admirably as posh boy Frank. Tamar Broadbent, meanwhile, gives Maggie grit and vulnerability, while beautifully pitching her showstoppers.

But the show’s wholesale buying into a bygone era also results in a soft-focus, old-fashioned feel, flattening out the dramatic stakes of George’s tragic backstory and the edginess of the first song, ‘Cruising’. The murmuring lyrics and languorous awakening of instruments, pulsing in time to the men’s first encounter, leads only to chaste kisses.

Bugg (who clearly knows his history) packs his script with grim background details, such as the mass arrests of gay men as ‘enemy spies’, but in tone and temperament, his characters feel like they’re from a ’40s film. They might do and say things uncensored, but a working-class guy is still the blackmailer.

‘Miss Nightingale’ began life a few years ago as a chamber piece and there’s a sense of bloating now, of a few too many songs that – while buckets of fun – don’t add much to the plot. There are times when it seems caught between the story it’s telling and being an actual music hall revue.

By: Tom Wicker


Event phone: 08448 733 433
Event website: http://missnightingale.co.uk
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Joanne  M

Matthew Bugg’s wartime musical Miss Nightingale is a musical play that is set in London, 1942.  The whole set which never changes is set up as an underground cabaret club that is up and running during the war-torn city with bombs being dropped in and around London and with many blackouts. Theatre was a very important part of London life during the war as a way to escape.

A nurse called Maggie Brown (played by Tamar Broadbent) is enrolled as the new saucy singer for the underground club with her stage name being Miss Nightingale.  She is in a relationship with Tom Fuller (played by Niall Kerrigan) who gets her the job at the club. However this relationship does not last that long. The boss of the club is Sir Frank Worthington-Blythe (played by Nicholas Coutu-Langmead). Sir Frank gets into a relationship with Jurek ‘George’ Nowodny (played by Conor O’Kane) who Maggie house shares with as is her dead brothers Portuguese friend and she took pity on him.  Maggie’s boss Sir Frank forms two different kinds of relationships. One with George which Sir Frank struggles to bring their love out of the shadows due to how people felt about homosexuality back in that era and with his reputation Sir Frank also formed another type of relationship with Maggie to keep his relationship hidden from the papers with which he has with George his true love.  There is so many twists, turns, blackmail, laughs, sauciness, singing and surprises that happen during this musical bonanza that lasts 2 hours 30 minutes it most definitely is one that is not to be missed.

The story and the singing from all the cast is spectacular certainly does keep you on the edge of your seat throughout.  Many of the songs are very tongue in cheek and saucy like the songs “Got to get your sausage where you can” and “The pussy song” etc.  I especially was blown away when all three main performers sung together singing something different but in the same sort of context and same emotional feelings.  This is most definitely a unique type of play set around one set that never changes but the acting and the singing is so superb that no set change does not matter. 

Plus the music and the vast array of musical instruments that are played throughout the play was outstanding from Maggie (Tamar) who plays the Piano at times, Frank (Nicholas) who plays a vast number of different instruments from the violin to ukulele, George (Conor) who plays the piano at times, Tom (Niall) who plays at times the drums and percussion, Harry (Matthew Bugg) who plays various instruments form the Sax to the accordion and lastly Clifford (Tobias Oliver) who plays the double bass.

If you love musicals, love cabaret, loves twists, love sauciness then I highly recommend seeing this play as it is such a blast!

Lizzie W

A beautiful story, brilliant actors and hilarious songs.

Hidden behind Waterloo Station in the Vaults Theatre the WW2 based story, Miss Nightingale, is brought to life. The hokey pokey theatre is the perfect location for this one set stage production - with only 6 actors, all playing various instruments throughout, there wouldn't be any more time for set changes. There are enough costume changes as it it for Miss Nightingale, all of which add glamour to the production, which the saucy songs stomp all over. 

The story is based around 3 main characters trials in love and life. In to this is woven some comedy - carefully done - and fabulous musical numbers. Each song was either fun or fraught and sung brilliantly - not one weak link from the actors. This musical is a must see before it finishes it's London stint at the end of May.

P.S. the theatre is quite cold so bring a jumper!