Review: Miss Nightingale at Hull Truck Theatre

Published: Thursday 28th January 2016 by Tom Drinkall

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Matthew Bugg’s Miss Nightingale is a beautiful and daring exploration of love and fame, bravery and cowardice during the Second World War.

The brilliant and passionate songwriter George Nowodny, a struggling homosexual refugee, moulds the no-nonsense northern girl Maggie into the flourishing star that is to become Miss Nightingale.

Whilst the dazzling bombshell takes centre stage when it comes to sexy, raunchy performances, it is George’s love affair with the rich producer Sir Frank Worthington-Blythe that steals the audience’s hearts.

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Watching Miss Nightingale will ensure a sweet smile on your face during the secretive love scenes, an audible gasp during Miss Nightingale’s risque performances, and a clenched fist at the accurate portrayal of ignorance and hate directed at homosexuals in the 1940s.

Miss Nightingale certainly doesn’t lack humour (audible renditions of The Sausage Song from the patrons were heard leaving the theatre), but the sombre story will not be forgotten. Miss Nightingale reminds us of how important it was to find humour in a time when the world was being ripped apart by war.

Despite her role as an entertainer, Miss Nightingale is portrayed as a fierce, strong woman whose modern sensibilities will make you proud to remember the women who kept the British homestead great during the Second World War.

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George’s desperate desire to contribute to the war effort is just one of his personal conflicts that make him a well-rounded and complicated character. And Frank’s stiff upper-lip attitude towards anything and everything pays homage to that British mentality that was so important during wartime Britain.

The entire cast are amazing singers, performers and musicians. My personal love for the accordion was matched by the surprisingly welcome addition of banjos and ukuleles. Not to mention the piano, double bass and drums, which often accompanied the main performances, and sounded amazing.

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I often judge a performance’s style through the opening number, and was blown away by the haunting and passionate Come Along Mister. However, I was surprised when Maggie sang Let Me Play On Your Pipe and knew there was no point trying to predict or label this musical.

Miss Nightingale is not a piece you’ve seen before. Despite the pastiches that pay homage to Britain during the Second World War, Matthew Bugg has delivered a musical unique in story and style. There is no glossing over the homophobic or sexist attitudes, which were considered normal behaviour in the 1940s, but the story demonstrates bravery in overcoming these adversaries.

Running at Hull Truck Theatre until Saturday, January 30, you still have a few days to catch this brilliant musical about life and love in Britain during the Second World War.

To book your tickets, call the Box Office on 01482 323638 or visit

Words: Matt Nolan

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Published: Thursday 28th January 2016 by Tom Drinkall

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