Out­sider trig­gers an emo­tional crescendo

Western Daily Press - - News - Jackie Chap­pell

The Nightin­gales

Theatre Royal Bath

RUTH Jones, of Gavin & Stacey fame, leads a starry cast in the premiere of this new play by William Gam­i­nara.

The play­wright is also well known for his role as Leo Dal­ton in Silent Wit­ness and for script­ing episodes of The Archers.

The in­te­rior of a vil­lage hall sets the scene for The Nightin­gales. With its bat­tered up­right piano, stack­ing chairs, white lines on the floor de­not­ing var­i­ous sports and a kitchen that has seen bet­ter days, Jonathan Fen­som’s ex­cel­lent de­sign is ev­ery vil­lage hall you have ever seen.

And in it we meet a com­mu­nity acapella group gath­er­ing for its weekly singing prac­tice, all the while its mem­bers com­plain­ing about the hall’s pre­vi­ous users.

So far, so typ­i­cal, but out­side is lurk­ing a new­comer to the vil­lage – Mag­gie, ex­cel­lently played by Ruth Jones – who doesn’t want to be on the out­side lis­ten­ing in but cosied up in the cen­tre of this ap­par­ently har­mo­nious group.

She en­ters smil­ing, trail­ing gifts of cake and good­will, and soon in­gra­ti­ates her­self into the group. But it’s ob­vi­ous from the out­set that she’s a wrong ’un and her pres­ence brings about dis­cord.

When Mag­gie per­suades the group to en­ter a tal­ent con­test the ten­sion ramps up and in­di­vid­ual de­sires and dis­sat­is­fac­tions bub­ble over. The com­edy gets darker with rows over racial stereo­typ­ing, mat­ters of trust, gen­der pol­i­tics and even the ethics of sperm dona­tion.

But it’s not un­til af­ter the in­ter­val that you need to fas­ten your seat­belts for an emo­tional crescendo.

There are fine sup­port­ing per­for­mances from Steven Pacey as choir­mas­ter Steven, Mary Stock­ley his wife Diane, Sarah Earn­shaw as Con­nie, Philip McGin­ley her hus­band Ben, and Ste­fan Adeg­bola as Bruno.

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