We were thrilled to learn that Miss Nightingale: a Burlesque Musical is back again this year, with some changes! We interviewed the writer and composer Matthew Bugg for the latest news... (and we managed to get two tickets for a giveaway on the blog for the Ipswich opening night on 27th March, details to enter coming up tomorrow!)
What have you been up to since last year's tour? Have you been busy working on Miss Nightingale since then or did you manage to get a break?
We haven’t had any sort of break at all. The last tour of Miss Nightingale went down a storm but we knew that we had a very short window of opportunity when we could capitalise on the huge impact we achieved. So we literally finished the last tour and then went straight into working 90 hour weeks in preparation for this one.
We saw you had some fantastic reviews and comments last year- well done! Were you happy with the reception of Miss Nightingale? Did you feel it came across to your audiences as you'd hoped?
I was extremely happy with the reception of Miss Nightingale on the first tour. We had loads of 5 star reviews and we collected hundreds of amazing audience comments. But I think more than anything the thing that really pleased me was the rich variety of people’s responses. Some people said it was a fabulous, feel-good night out. Others said it was heart-breaking and moved them to tears. Others said it was deeply political and really got them thinking. I’m thrilled that so many different people found so many different things in the same piece because that’s exactly what I was aiming for.
Have you made any changes this time round?
Oh yes!!! I’m an infamous tinkerer. The joy of performing and producing your own work is that you get to see it every night and you can learn from the audience’s response as you go. We even changed the last production whilst we were touring it - cutting four songs and adding two new ones. I think the actors probably hated me!
But the 2014 tour is a totally new production with a new script, new cast, new costumes and new numbers. Perhaps the biggest change that might really interest your readers, is that we are only using technology available in the 1940s. We’ve been selected by the National Fairground Archive at the University of Sheffield to be the flagship production of their 20th anniversary and I’ve been doing a lot of research into authentic vintage performance styles. So we are cutting all the radio mics and all the moving lights and doing the whole show exactly as it would have been done in 1942. That’s quite a challenge, but it’s forcing me to be so much more inventive.
Before seeing it the first time last year we'd talked to you a bit more about the themes in the play. We loved that Miss Nightingale on the surface was all glitz and glamour but there were much more serious themes within it. Have you developed these themes any further in the last year, and are you influenced in these themes by any current affairs?
Miss Nightingale was always intended to be a piece about what gets shown in the spotlight and what gets hidden in the shadows. It has a deeply moving gay love story at it’s heart, but we deliberately didn’t sell the show on that last time round. We wanted audiences to discover what was going on in the shadows for themselves. So the piece starts as if it’s going to be a cliched rags to riches tale about a singer wanting to become a star and then it slowly reveals itself to be something much more complex and touching. For this tour we are much more open about the gay aspect of the story, partly because anyone who reads any of our reviews will already know that it’s there. And yes, I am massively influenced by current affairs. I find it horrifying that since our last tour in 2013 new discriminatory laws have been imposed on gay and lesbian people in India, Russia and elsewhere. In fact as I write this I am waiting to hear if a new law will be passed in Uganda which will mean homosexuals could face a lifetime in prison. But I’m not a politician, I’m an artist, so it’s my job to make work that makes people think about the world around them and then drawn their own conclusions. I hide my political views behind a curtain of sequins!
We see you have a fabulous new leading lady, Jill Cardo, can you tell us a bit more about her?
Jill Cardo! What can I say? She is a dream. She’s a brilliant singer, an amazing dancer, a first class trumpet player, an hilarious comic and an actor of the highest calibre. She will break your heart and then have you fits in laughter a second later. She is truly astonishing and I feel really privileged to be working with such a talent. You’ve got to see her!
Obviously as a vintage fashion blog, we have to ask about the wardrobe... any vintage delights for us? We saw a tweet that you dying pyjamas- how involved do you get in the wardrobe selection?
I’m afraid I’m a bit of a control freak so I get involved in every aspect of the production. I absolutely love making things, particularly clothes. I’ve been designing and making my own knitwear for the last 8 years. I made a lot of the costumes for Miss Nightingale alongside our costume supervisor Charlotte Armitage. In fact probably the most glamorous frock in the whole show is one that I made. I adore the hands-on craft-based approach to running a theatre company and it’s amazing what you can achieve with a good eye, an eBay account and a few sequins!
Have you got anything else in the pipeline? Anything else coming up for the vintage or burlesque lovers out there?
Well we’ve got another project in the pipeline which has grown very organically out of my research into Miss Nightingale. I’m going to write a piece about the “Women of Steel”. These are the women who went to work in the steel factories during the First and Second World War. They did exactly the same jobs as the men and yet didn’t get paid the same and when the men came back from fighting they were all sent back to the kitchen! The work they did was incredibly dangerous and without them we would never have won either war and yet nothing has been done to commemorate or celebrate them. So that’s what I want to do! The lead character will be called Rosie, after Rosie the Riveter from the famous “We Can Do It” poster.
Finally, if you had to persuade someone in ten words to come and see Miss Nightingale for the first time, what would you say?
An hilarious and heartwarming story of love, loss and hope.
Thanks Matthew! We're looking forward to seeing it and hearing more on your next production.
Don't forget to come back tomorrow for the giveaway! And if you don't win this competition, don't forget you can come and see this gorgeous, glamorous, feel good new musical at a theatre near you...
27 Mar - 5 Apr New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich: wolseytheatre.co.uk/shows/missnightingale/
10 April Cast, Doncaster: castindoncaster.com/whats-on/performance/miss-nightingale-musical#scroll-tickets
11 - 12 April Mac, Birmingham: macarts.co.uk/event/miss-nightingale
14 - 19 Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Mold: clwyd-theatr-cymru.co.uk/en/whats_on/event/23719
24 - 27 City Varieties, Leeds: cityvarieties.co.uk/Online/default.asp
28 Apr - 2 May Library Theatre, Sheffield: sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/event/sto-miss-nightingale-the-musical-14/
3 May Victoria Theatre, Halifax: calderdale.gov.uk/victoria/details.jsp?event=3748