On top of the excellent performances, script and score, Jemma Evelyn-Gould’s direction and choreography are tight, witty, and make excellent use of the tiny space.
Writers Paul Tibbey and Mark Sims have created an entirely appropriate score which draws on but never feels derivative of the music of war-time England - from the music-hall All-Clear to the winsome wistful Until we Kiss Again and bluesy, show-girl Why Not. The lyrics are witty and knowing, and the script intricate and perfectly pitched. It’s also bloody clever - with three separate timelines and stories going on, interwoven with exquisite delicacy.
Our narrator is Hester Leggit - an MI5 agent spilling the beans after her own death. Her assistant Pam becomes the sweetheart attributed to the fictional Major to flesh out his character. Pam (Francesca Peplow) doubles as the Nurse charged with looking after Glyn (Lloyd Ryan-Thomas) after he’s poisoned by MI5, and engaged to Bernie (also Ryan-Thomas), a squaddie posted on the Sicily mission. The real genius though is the playing out of the fictional relationship between Pam and ‘Bill’ i.e. Major Martin. The scenes between Peplow as Pam and Ryan-Thomas as Bill are rendered with as much love and warmth as the ‘real’ people - right down to their teary final goodbyes before he ‘leaves for Spain’. Hester (Sophie Hughes) does her fair share of doubling too, making a poignant turn as Glyn’s downtrodden mother, and a soulful spot as a silky-voiced Gargoyle Club singer. The script’s much deserved focus is on Glyn - a proper exploration of the man, and how his life became such that he would willingly accept a poisoned Rarebit for the sake of the Bernies of this world.
Performances are outstanding all round, particularly impressive given that they each have multiple characters. Francesca Peplow is sweet and wide-eyed as the nurse, sharp and ballsy as Pam. Sophie Hughes holds the room with her authoritative Hester, but allows a depth of sympathy to develop as she explores the characters loneliness in the sorrowful Had I Ever Loved. Special mention though has to go to Lloyd Ryan-Thomas who perfects a happy-go-lucky Bernie, achingly sympathetic Glyn, and makes Bill the suave, sweet, gently seductive hero of every girl’s dreams. His singing voice is the strongest of the three (though the women also make light work of the challenging score), and his transitions between characters, even whilst singing, are seamless.
On top of the excellent performances, script and score, Jemma Evelyn-Gould’s direction and choreography are tight, witty, and make excellent use of the tiny space. Put simply, there’s nothing I didn’t like about this smart and elegant piece - bally good show chaps!