Cambridge's leading amateur theatre production company

Established 1981

And A Nightingale Sang
 by C P Taylor   directed by Colin Lawrence

The ADC Theatre, Cambridge, July 2006

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A review of And A Nightingale Sang
by Geraldine Hindley

Audiences sweltered at the ADC on the closing night of this play but it was well worth it. 'Nightingale' is a cleverly constructed, charming romantic comedy centred on a Geordie family. The main character, Helen, also acts as a narrator weaving seamlessly in and out of the action as the developing story visits a series of pivotal scenes in the family household. It presents demands and opportunities for director and performers.
It was evident that much thought had been given to all aspects of the production.

The stage presentation of the cramped 'two up two down' was convincing and a second level was created to make room for an equally cramped bedroom and front room. The park was simply indicated with lights and a bench, an air raid shelter scene was most effectively created and a whole ballroom was conjured up with one mirror ball!

Not that I'm an expert but furniture, props, costume and make up all looked just right to me. I liked Joyce's bright lipsticks and how poor old Helen had far fewer dress changes than her 'pretty' sister!

The story follows all the dramas of the family, but most closely, that of Helen, the crippled, plain, sensible elder sister in an otherwise potty family.  Suzanne Jones was absolutely delightful as Helen.  Clearly great attention had been given to her performance and she held the audience throughout, sharing her hopes and dreams of a life with Norman and her stoical acceptance of his later revelations. I particularly liked her first bench monologue and later reactions: when she finds out about Norman's child; the way she turned and looked up at the mirror ball; and the comic delivery of 'Me Mam made those biscuits, they're horrible!'

 Andy Waller played the more worldly Norman, a Cockney soldier who steals Helen's heart; but I wasn't completely convinced of his love for her.  Helen Holgate played Joyce, Helen's younger sister, constantly self absorbed in whether she loves the doting Eric (Gareth Furness). With Joyce turning straight to Helen for advice a real sisterly bond was portrayed. Helen and Gareth played the young lovers lightly and humorously, reacting with much discomfort every time sex was referred to!

The character of George, the Dad (Michael Husband), provided another dimension to the play with his piano playing and singing. Michaels singing and (albeit mimed!) piano playing gave either upbeat or poignant accompaniment to the story line. His face when asked whether he thought sex was worth dying for, was a picture!

The character of Peggy (Mam) played by Alex Priestley was uncannily like too many of my aunts as she fretted through the play sure that all the bad things that happened, including what got bombed were her fault and she needed to pray more; this opinion being epitomised when Peggy declared 'The church is going to get it,I know, and it's my fault.'

The other occasional resident of this house was Andie (the Old Soldier) played by Mike Milne. Andie lived sometimes with Peggy, sometimes (not often enough) with his other daughter and once with a rich widow but he kept coming back bringing his dubious smells and habits with him.

As well as all the individual performance and action the play required tight ensemble acting, maintaining of characters silently during the narration, fast flow of four or more separate unrelated conversations overlapping (in a Geordie accent) and slick scene changes . There were some lovely scenes such as in the shelter singing 'You Are My Sunshine' like a funeral dirge.

It is a play about getting through the adversities of love and war and reminds us that even in the midst of the big dramas of war, it is the little dramas of family life and love that matter to us most.

I loved the play when I read it and thought the actors, director and all the backstage team should be congratulated for bringing it to life for the BAWDS summer production.