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Nice: A micro musical for the Camden Fringe Festival

Nice - Photo by Ella Clarke
Nice – Photo by Ella Clarke

A word that over the course of recent years has changed its meaning ever so slightly – nice. What was once a description of something or someone perfectly pleasant is now a word that people can use to patronise. Ella Clarke introduces us to three women at different stages in their lives in her newest work. They all are experiencing what it is to be called ‘nice’ or act ‘nice’. There is little to nothing behind this word and these women are all struggling individually to find a voice and develop their identity as they’re being held back by the men around them. Clarke’s feminist one-act production also adds a musical element to the mix – through the 45-minutes, each character gets a chance to express themselves honestly to the audience before taking a different approach through song.

Clarke is joined by talents, Sally May and Grace St Hill and together, they play our three characters. Sally May plays a manageress, Nina, who is penalised by her male co-workers and expresses her frustration as being seen as a ‘token employee’. Clarke plays wife Natalie, who finds herself invisible to her ungrateful husband and St Hill is the young ingenue, Norah, silenced and held back by the men around her.

The monologues pack a punch. Clarke’s writing, during these segments, is poignant and poetic. So much so, that when the musical parts interject, the writing takes a more simple approach. The set is appealingly minimal – white rose petals and a piano. It works well for this show. Rueben Ard’s accompaniments are equally as delicate and beautiful as he plays through the show.

Nice is in a very good position to be one of the standouts for Edinburgh Fringe next year, but it still needs a bit of work. Further polishing and possibly expanding the characters will make this show one of the stronger feminist pieces to see. It may benefit to define the show as a play with music rather than a musical, but we shall see how it grows. One thing is for sure, there’s definitely a place for NICE in the fringe theatre future.

3 Star Review

Review by Tomm Ingram

“Nice” tells the story of three women: Nina, Natalie and Norah, who embody different phases of one’s identity and who discover the tenacity to overcome and grow through difficulty such as power struggles, class differences, divorce and mental and sexual abuse.

“We die and we are re-born in every new experience, moment, and breath.” With one pianist and original soundtrack this intimate and soulful show will inspire you to sing along and feel connected to the show’s voice.

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