REVIEW: Ruth Jones is a delight and leads a stellar cast in The Nightingales at Cambridge Arts Theatre

PUBLISHED: 00:02 14 November 2018 | UPDATED: 10:21 15 November 2018

Ruth Jones in The Nightingales at Cambridge Arts Theatre

Ruth Jones in The Nightingales at Cambridge Arts Theatre

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Ruth Jones, who has been off the stage for 12 years due to her successes on television, is an absolute delight in this intriguing and funny play.

Ruth Jones, who has been off the stage for 12 years due to her successes on television, is an absolute delight in this intriguing and funny play.

Written by William Gaminara, who played Dr Richard Locke in the BBC Radio 4 soap, The Archers, it seems at first like a simple story, a play with a beginning, a middle and and end.

It’s charming and full of humour, yet when you get to the end, you realise just how clever it is. Suddenly, things take a grim turn.

Jones is a pure joy from the moment she takes the stage, at the beginning of the play. So much so that I had to remind myself to stop just basking in her glory and actually listen to what she was saying. She is luminiscent.

The plot appears straightforward, Jones’s character, Maggie has moved into a village where there is an a cappella choir, practising weekly in the village hall. After passing by and asking if she can just pop in and listen, Maggie, a person you could call a limited edition, inveigles her way into the group, made up of two couples and a bachelor (Bruno, played by Stefan Adegbola).

The relationships between the married pairs, Ben and Connie (Philip McGinley and Sarah Earnshaw) and Steven and Diane (Steven Pacey and Mary Stockley) are completely convincing and McGinley and Earnshaw are a brilliant comedy duo. Both have great comic timing.

They are playing a choir and all six of the cast have good voices for harmonies, singing well-known pieces that are a pleasure to hear.

But is the character Maggie a catalyst for change in this once cheerful group or would the other choir members be unravelling before our eyes even if she wasn’t there? That’s partly the puzzle of the play.

Their attitudes to her tell us much about them and leave plenty of room for discussion on the way home.

Directed tightly by Christopher Luscombe, a credit to musical director Luke Bateman and with an amusingly detailed set by Jonathan Fensom, here are great performances in an interesting piece. An engaging evening.

The Nightingales is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Saturday, November 17.

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