Bella Qvist has been to see the show everyone is talking about…
They call it a burlesque musical filled with sex, scandal and showbiz. And it sure is. But I don’t leave feeling frisky, I leave filled with thought. Like I want to go home and give my girlfriend a really big hug and like I want to live my every day as if it was my last.
It sounds cheesy but if there is one thing that the past two and a half hours have told me then it’s that equality matters. That on top of the fact that there are endless amounts of sexual innuendos in the English language and that Amber Topaz has great boobs. It’s been a good night, in other words.
Miss Nightingale is the story of Maggie Brown and her best friend, the Jewish composer George Nowodny who’s fled WW2 Germany in order to recreate the liberal Berlin he once knew. Trying to make it as a musical duo in London they are getting nowhere until wealthy producer Sir Frank Worthington-Blyth takes them under his wings, helplessly smitten by George who double acts as a street walker.
Here begins a love story filled with blackmail, friendship and great romance and I adore the fact that these men don’t hold back or do what our heroine does later; simply “tease”. Instead we get gay kissing not for the sake of gay kissing but as a natural component of romance. It’s cute, passionate and ever so refreshing.
As their drama unfolds we see Northern nurse Maggie turn into West End star Miss Nightingale and blossom as she performs show stopping, and ever so rude, number after number. First song “Let Me Play Your Pipe”, followed by “The Pussy Song”, both performed in a thick Northern accent and with great tongue in cheek, sets the tone for what is to, uhm, come.
Only woman on stage, Amber Topaz, plays the leading lady with great flair and clever wit. Her body language and facial expressions initially has the audience bending over with laughter but changes into those of a sultry temptress as she finally takes full control of the stage with her very own performance. The fact that this is whilst stripping to the point where I see it all (let’s not lie, those pants really don’t hide much) is meant to illustrate the power of the burlesque. She is clearly in control but I’m still not a hundred percent convinced – although it works as a break from singing about sausages. And it is really quite liberating to see a woman express her sexuality to the point where it quite literally is in your face.
Still I wouldn’t market this as a burlesque musical; it is so much more. It’s the tale of two men and their love and of a story about a woman finding herself. With great musicality, moving performances by actors so good I go home and Twitter stalk them and a serious message wrapped in great humour, Miss Nightingale could be a classic in the making.
And with a proper Northern lass at the centre of the stage paired with a plot about wartime women, equal rights and top tunes this show plays very well in Steel City Sheffield. It fits so well that I wish it would stay; I want everyone to see this.
My only real criticisms would be asking whether the ending is too light hearted. Are the issues of the persecution of homosexuals solved that easily – with a song and a dance? I suppose not answering this places the question with the audience, hence me leaving thoughtful.
Before heading out into the warm summer night, writer Matthew Bugg makes himself known as one of the crew, announcing that donations will be taken for Women Of Steel. (Click here for more info about this worthy cause.)
“Because here in Sheffield equality matters. No matter who you are you are treated with respect and I love this city for that,” he says.
Dropping my last coins into a bucket I step out into the summer night outside the Lyceum alongside people of all ages, many dressed in their very best frocks, and I truly feel what Bugg just said.
You can see Miss Nightingale performed at the Lyceum tonight, Friday 19 July, and at Royal Theatre, Windsor 22-27 July.