Thursday, 25 April 2013

Mr Bugg Presents....

Last week we had the great pleasure of heading to London to watch a snippet of the rehearsals for Miss Nightingale, a Burlesque Musical and talk to some of the company. If the rehearsals (just one week in) are anything to go by the show is not to be missed.
"London 1942. Two men struggle in the shadows of a war-torn city to thrust a new cabaret star into the spotlight.

Maggie Brown dreams of becoming famous as she nurses wounded soldiers in an East End hospital. With her songwriter George, a Jewish refugee, she auditions at every night club and cabaret bar in London. But nobody wants their act. Their luck and lives change when they are picked up by the handsome, charming and wealthy Sir Frank.

Suddenly the mysterious Miss Nightingale explodes onto the stage - ruffling feathers and shocking polite society with her scandalous exploits, outfits and risqué songs. She takes the West End by storm. But out of the spotlight, sexual tensions reveal secrets more destructive than the Blitz." (source: New Wolsey Theatre)

A Burlesque Musical....

Burlesque is a genre commonly misunderstood and people automatically assume it's all about stripping- however there is much more to it than that.  Matthew Bugg explains it less about the strip and more about the tease.  Burlesque in its literal translation means to "parody, satirize or to send something up, often though innuendo or double entendre" which is partially where the reputation for burlesque as a strip show comes from, that and in post-war America that is essentially what it became.  

Although Miss Nightingale is billed as a 1940s burlesque show, Mr Bugg never actually intended it to be that on his first attempt at writing the play.  In the first draft, he said, there was no burlesque and it wasn't even set in the 1940s.  Mr Bugg describes the show as being a piece that was "discovered" and that he has taken the role of "craftsman rather than an artist".  The company of Miss Nightingale explain that there is a bawdy sense of fun and sassiness to burlesque which is what they aim to get across in the play, but also more than that.  Burlesque traditionally has a narrative, so by creating a play about burlesque it becomes more than just a musical interlude, or their jobs in the play, it take on the role of the narrative in places. Mr Bugg went on to explain that he wanted to create something with more meat on it, that was complex, rich and character driven- given the myriad of themes discussed it would seem the plays promises to deliver on that front.  

One of the things which surprises many people is that you can be a feminist and dress in an attractive and/or sexually provocative way.  This is a theme that Mr Bugg has said comes across in the play, and which Amber Topaz (Miss Nightingale) expanded upon. Amber previously worked on Les Miserables, thinking it would be her dream job she soon realised that it was not for her and then almost fell in to being a burlesque performer, being asked to play Miss Nightingale- which she said is more like her "dream job".  Amber explained that burlesque is empowering- it is inspiring to women to watch a woman on stage being confident and comfortable and yet not taking themselves too seriously.  For Topaz, the empowering thing of burlesque is the ability to be yourself and take control of your own career and body.  Mr Bugg expanded on this to say that before the burlesque was added to the play, it was far too easy for the characters to become victims, and he wanted it to be about triumph- essentially about being happy with you are and revelling in self-expression, which the burlesque element supported.
Blitzy Wartime Romance

The musical has been described as being about 'sex, scandal and showbiz in Second World War London', sounds like a good a place as any to start.  Essentially a love story that grows to the backdrop of burlesque, gorgeous vintage styled costumes and 1940s London.

Once Mr Bugg had developed the play into being set in the 1940s, he developed some of the different themes which the period allowed, such issues as liberalism and repression.  These were two strong currents that swept across Europe during the 19320/30s liberal phase and then in the late 1930s to 1940s with the rise of fascism and repression.  Something we at Lesley's Girls talk about a lot is how vintage fashion should not be seen on its own but should be seen in the context of the time and what is going on, likewise it seems logical a play of whatever form, should take into account the real current of the time, so I'm really interested to see how this is shown in Miss Nightingale.  Interestingly Mr Bugg pointed out that there is a modern resonance with this theme now- where a period of liberalism is often followed by a period of clamping down and repression- another reason I look forward to seeing the play and watching these themes develop.


As a vintage fashion blog how could we possibly let a piece on a 1940s burlesque themed play go without talking about fashion?!  Amber Topaz who play Miss Nightingale is a vintage vixen herself, when we arrived she was perfectly coiffed and kitted out- which was fantastic to see as you know that when you see her in the role it will be all the more natural because that is simply how she dresses already, in fact she had some input in the outfits too. The costumes are a mixture of vintage, old, new and handmade pieces- whatever works to ensure the authenticity of the costume to the period.  We have managed to get a couple of images on here of outfits, but you can see more over on their pinterest boards.

So roll on Thursday 2 May when myself and friend of Lesley's Girls, Judy, head off to the Wolsey in Ipswich to see the opening night... and of course we shall make sure we sure we are appropriately attired for the show in our 1940s best.

Miss Nightingale, a Burlesque Musical will be showing at the New Wolsey Theatre, Civic Drive, Ipswich, Suffolk from 2 May until 11 May before continuing its tour schedule (full details can be found on the website) Starring: Amber Topaz, Ilan Goodman, Tomm Coles, Alex Fuller, Adam Langstaff, Tobias Oliver and Matthew Bugg. Writter & Musical Director: Matthew Bugg. Director: Peter Rowe. 

Links: Mr Bugg Presents, Matthew Bugg, Miss Nightingale, New Wolsey Theatre, Amber Topaz

1 comment:

  1. It's going to be at the Salford Quays?! Yaaaay! Looks amazing, I'll certainly be hot-footing it over :)


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