Theatre Royal, Bath
ON your first viewing of Jonathan Fensom’s village hall set you might expect to be about to watch a production of the sparkling 1980s Richard Harris play/musical Stepping Out.
There is a piano, stacks of chairs, dodgy light bulbs and all the unwanted remnants of earlier occupation by sweaty boy scouts.
But it is not would-be tap dancers who shuffle onto the stage in Christopher Luscombe’s production but singers – to be precise a happy little five-piece acapella group eagerly anticipating their weekly sing-a-long.
There are two married couples – Cambridge educated leader Steven and his desperate-to-be-amother younger wife Diane together with former professional tennis player Ben and his exmodel partner Connie. Completing the quintet is Bruno a young history teacher. All is contentment until... along comes bubbly newcomer Maggie who “just wants to listen” and everything changes. Harmony becomes discord as initial friendliness gives way to suspicion, competition and betrayal.
William Gaminara’s cast of characters interacts well together but the exposure of individuals is rather superficial.
The narrative is always interesting but rarely surprising and the conclusion explosive but without shocks.
Ruth Jones is tantalising as Maggie, cleverly enticing you into her web and continually leaving you unsure whether you are with her or against her.
There is strong back-up, especially from Steven Pacey as nearly-man Steven, Sarah Earnshaw as the vociferous pushy Connie and Philip McGinley as a chipper but ultimately endearing Ben.
The Nightingales, which is a Theatre Royal, Bath in-house production, continues until tomorrow.
Rehearsals for The Nightingales – Philip McGinley, Stefan Adegbola, musical director Luke Bateman, Ruth Jones, Steven Pacey, Mary Stockley and Sarah Earnshaw