Stefan Adegbola, Steven Pacey, Sarah Earnshaw, Mary Stockley, Philip McGinley and Ruth Jones

The Nightingales

Malvern Theatres


Choral singing is known to be good for us and a happy hum of anticipation rose above the audience as they settled into their seats for William Gaminara’s fast-paced new comedy.

Starring Ruth Jones, best known for TV’s Gavin and Stacey and Stella, this is her first stage performance since 2006 and we quickly warm to her as Maggie, a Welsh single mum, newly-arrived in a Yorkshire village.

However, there is also something a little bit strange about Maggie and we learn from her opening monologue that this is not a play that ends well. Perhaps it would be better if this information were revealed more slowly as the story unfolds.

The play is set in a typical village hall and kitchen, perfect in nearly every way, but the stacking chairs never seem to stick together – how unusual.

This is the weekly meeting place of a small a cappella singing group who are happy to tackle everything “from Motown to Mozart”. Two married couples, Steven and Diane (Steven Pacey and Mary Stockley), Connie and Ben (Sarah Earnshaw and Philip McGinley) are joined by Bruno (Stefan Adegbola), a young teacher who is also his mother’s carer.

Maggie is attracted by their harmonies and finds a reason to introduce herself. She soon becomes a non-singing member “the fifth Beatle” and turns up regularly, disrupting their rehearsals with flapjacks and Welsh cakes for her new friends.

Cracks in their seemingly happy relationships begin to appear as we learn more about them. Current social problems are referenced but never fully explored, which might have given the characters more depth.

There is hanky-panky in the kitchen, accusations are made and tempers are tested. Maggie reveals that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer and the group rallies round. The cracks widen when Bruno suggests that they enter Talentfest, a local competition that could lead to an appearance on Britain’s Got Talent, and personal ambitions emerge.

For ex model/actress Connie and former tennis player Ben, whose career was cut short by injury, it is another chance for fame and fortune. For Steven, the leader of the group, it is an unwelcome distraction from his, more serious, musical dreams. His younger wife, Diane, is just happy for some excitement to mask her longing for a baby. Maggie is finally persuaded to sing.

This is a strong cast, working well together and getting the most out of some very funny lines. Their singing is good too, Sarah Earnshaw in particular, and I would have liked more music throughout. The play ends with another monologue from Maggie and we realise that we don’t really know her at all but it has been a very enjoyable journey and a good night out at the theatre. Directed by Christopher Luscombe, The Nightingales sing to 08-12-18

Sue Hawkins


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