Southwold’s cracking start to the season
And A Nightingale Sang, by C P Taylor, Southwold Summer Theatre, St Edmund’s Hall, Southwold, until Tuesday July 19. Runs thereafter at Aldeburgh, July 25-30
Jill Freud’s new Summer Theatre season got off to a cracking start with C P Taylor’s And a Nightingale Sang, which follows the fortunes of one Newcastle-on-Tyne family for the duration of World War Two. Narrated by daughter Helen (Hayley Doherty) it is a wonder that so much action was packed into so little time and space. The air raid was a masterpiece of what can be done on a small stage.
Maurice Rubens’ evocative set is enhanced by wartime music led by Michael Shaw as father, George Stott. We encounter the family routine as war breaks out. Helen’s sister Joyce (Helen Armes) is dithering over whether or not to marry boyfriend Eric (Iain Ridley), and mother Peggy (Kate Russell-Smith) is pre-occupied with happenings at the local Catholic Church and her peripetic father, Andie (Jeffrey Perry). Sisters Helen and Joyce could not be more different, Helen is a home bod, unable to dance on account of having one leg shorter than the other, and Joyce who likes a good time. But this is wartime and the two girls are soon enmeshed in complicated affairs of the heart. Helen meets Norman (Charles Davies) whose secret causes ructions within the family.
Director Phil Clark, present at the first performance of the play in 1978, brought the comic pathos successfully to life. It is a piece that needs good timing and clever pacing to convey the passing of five traumatic years, and the company brought it off with aplomb. Occasionally the one-liners, and there is good earthy comedy here, got lost in the accent but not enough to spoil what is a rattling good night at the theatre.