Review - The Nightingales at Chichester Festival Theatre

A dreary village hall used by people going about their everyday dreary lives.

Ruth Jones in The Nightingales
Ruth Jones in The Nightingales

But this eclectic group has one gift in common - the ability to sing rather beautifully.

So against a backdrop of Scout flags and flaking wall paint, they come together each week to give voice to their talents and sustenance to their dreams.

For lurking within them - as within all of us - is that hope of something different. Something better.

As The Nightingales they see a possible chance, no matter how slim, of winning Britain’s Got Talent with the top prize of a spot at the Royal Variety show.

Then Maggie arrives.

She hears them from outside the hall and finally plucks up the courage to step inside and join the group.

The splendid Ruth Jones captures the complexity - the enigma - that is Maggie with a deft and certain touch.

A packed auditorium sees through the prism of each of the group speaking to a local journalist the unfolding events. We get glimpses not just of their favourite colour - the first question that is repeatedly asked - but the ambitions and insecurities which drive them. From the need for a child to the scars of the death of a twin sister from cancer.

Gaminara’s script has some sharp one-liners and builds the emotional tension to boiling point in the second half.

The cast combine pace with some rather fine singing.

A great piece of theatre? Probably not. It has its natural limits - we can never quite empathise enough with any of The Nightingales to want them to succeed and there are times when it seems just a little too formulaic.

But it packs a punch, none the less, and the return of Ruth Jones to live drama could not be more welcome.

The Nightingales by William Gaminara at Chichester Festival Theatre until December 1.