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Miss Nightingale the Musical: Waterloo’s Immersive Theatre

Where better than the Vaults Theatre for this subversively nostalgic musical? It’s the perfect antidote to sentimental musings on the horrors of WW2 because it reminds us of the difficulties of living a truthful life. And just when you think it’s going to get mushy, along comes a gleeful music hall number about sausages (SEEN’s personal favourite).

GI Joe - Tamar Broadbent in Miss Nightingale the musical Photo, Robert Workman
GI Joe – Tamar Broadbent in Miss Nightingale the musical Photo, Robert Workman

Usually with musicals, the songs can be a bit hit and miss; not so here. Each one was beautifully sung by Nicolas Coutu-Langmead as the English aristocrat Frank, Conor O’ Kane as Polish Jew George and particularly Tamar Broadbent as cheerful Northern songbird Maggie – Miss Nightingale herself. The voices and musicality of each cast member was top notch. An enthusiastic audience (some of whom sat right on the stage – I told you it was immersive) greeted the more salacious numbers with delight. There was room for more reflective numbers too: you can’t have light without the shade after all.

Sausage Song - Tamar Broadbent in Miss Nightingale the musical Photo, Robert Workman
Sausage Song – Tamar Broadbent in Miss Nightingale the musical Photo, Robert Workman

The set was fabulous and perfect for a wartime nightclub. Tucked underneath the arches of Waterloo Station with the trains rumbling overhead gave the show the perfect ambience, as did the rations of chocolate that the audience were given and the skillfully designed programme that recreates wartime information, particularly the sense of enjoying oneself even as the bombs rain down. It must have been a peculiarly intense period of history in which to live, where desire and the fear of imminent death were heightened by their proximity to each other, setting the scene for the musical’s strange love triangle.

Biggles - Nicholas Coutu-Langmead Conor O'Kane & Tamar Broadbent in Miss Nightingale Photo, Robert Workman
Biggles – Nicholas Coutu-Langmead, Conor O’Kane & Tamar Broadbent in Miss Nightingale Photo, Robert Workman

All three main characters had their own tangled secrets to reveal and the story gave a good balance to these, not allowing one to predominate or be forgotten. SEEN won’t be giving you any spoilers, but suffice to say that the conclusion was both satisfying and uplifting, particularly when you can acknowledge how times have changed, and for the better too. Indeed the great rupture of WW2 could be said to have triggered changes to attitudes to homosexuality and female autonomy. It’s on until 20th May. SEEN recommends.

www.thevaults.london

The Vaults Theatre
Launcelot Street
London
SE1 7AD

Credits

Photography Robert Workman