by C P Taylor

New Vic Theatre Newcastle-under-Lyme To 20 February.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm no performance 10, 15 February. Mat 13 Feb 2.15pm.
Audio-described 13 Feb 2.15pm.
Captioned 16 Feb.
Post-show Discussion 16 Feb.

then Stephen Joseph Theatre Scarborough 24 February-6 March.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm & 4 March 1.30pm.
TICKETS: 01723 370541.

then Oldham Coliseum 19 March-3 April 2010.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat 20, 24 March, 3 April 2.30pm.
TICKETS:0161 624 2829.

Runs 2hr 50min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 February.

They fight on – amongst themselves.
Great plays weren’t the thing with Cecil Taylor, the Glasgow-born writer who spent most of his life around Newcastle-upon-Tyne. His best play by mainstream standards was his last, Good, about a decent German’s slow immersion in Nazism, premiered by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Mostly, Taylor wrote highly effective dramas that spoke to people locally in a language and method they could take to. That language isn’t only a matter of local meanings (“wife” we soon understand in old soldier Andie’s mouth means ‘woman’, though doubtless most of the ‘wife’s were wives too) but a matter of cultural expectations.

Nightingale follows the Tyneside Stott family from 1939 to 1945, as they hardly let the War interrupt their concerns. After initially diving for protection against bombs, before realising the apparent air-raid siren is a whistling kettle, they stick to what really bothers them.

For dolled-up Joyce it’s making-up her mind and dealing with a loveless marriage. For mother Peggy it’s the demands of a life based on stern Catholicism. Which creates difficulties for husband George when, on a tide of wartime confidence, he joins the communists. ‘Old soldier’ Andie sees wartime vicissitudes in terms of a spare room for him and his extensive luggage.

Wartime ballads, including the title one, stand for these folks’ mix of sentiment and resilience, appearing throughout thanks to George’s pianism. Singing and playing alike are strong, especially Laura Norton’s Helen, the narrator who crosses time and space, introducing her family and telling her own story of wartime romance as she emerges from the resignation with which the character waits for chronological middle-age to catch up with her lack of self-confidence, via lipstick and make-up to the confidence in which she can take the revelations of reality that bind her lover.

Fine young director Sarah Punshon makes each point clearly on Helen Goddard’s spare set, silvery barrage-balloons hanging above the family table (fulcrum for major arguments) and flagstone floor. She can’t turn this assemblage of wartime incidents into great drama, but she ensures it speaks with resolution and humour of the people, to the people, loud and clear.

Norman: Jack Bennett.
Joyce: Anna Doolan.
Peggy: Katherine Dow Blyton.
Eric: Michael Imerson.
Andie: Jed McKenna.
Helen: Laura Norton.
George: Simeon Truby.

Director: Sarah Punshon.
Designer: Helen Goddard.
Lighting: Daniella Beattie.
Sound: James Earls-Davis.
Musical Director: Malcolm Newton.
Movement: Lucy Hind.
Vocal coach: Sally Hague.
Assistant director: James Dacre.

2010-02-09 12:31:43

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