The Nightingales, Chichester Festival Theatre, review: ‘It was not funny enough to be a good comedy’

This stage production will be at Chichester Festival Theatre, from November 27 to December 1.
This stage production will be at Chichester Festival Theatre, from November 27 to December 1.

I often find with theatre that my favourite shows are the ones I don’t expect to enjoy that much, like The Watsons, which is currently at the Minerva next door.

Unfortunately, it also works in reverse. As a Gavin and Stacey fan, I was looking forward to seeing Ruth Jones onstage; but while she proved her acting skills extended beyond the screen, she was let down by a pedestrian plot which did not stretch as far as it could have.

A mother, played by Jones, lies about having breast cancer to infiltrate an a capella singing group whose members also have some skeletons in their closets.

As the plot unfolded, I was hoping she would either be so depraved and her actions would have such serious consequences that you left feeling sick, or that she had suffered from some unimaginable trauma that you could feel sympathy for her otherwise unjustifiable lies.

But this denouement just did not come, and the stakes were never that high in the first place. All her lies cost her was a place in a singing competition the group wouldn’t have won anyway – judging by the rendition of You Raise Me Up, which was cringe-worthy before Jones' character fluffed her words – and £2,000, which did not seem to be much skin off the nose of the character who handed over the cash.

There were some funny moments, and the scene where Maggie's lies finally unravel was entertaining, but overall it was not funny enough to be a good comedy, and not dramatic enough to be a good drama. I would recommend spending your money at the Minerva instead. 

Until Saturday, December 1. 

JAMES BUTLER