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All the Nice Girls

Photo: wongstock/Shutterstock Photo: wongstock/Shutterstock
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Beginning with music hall and the rise of variety, this lovingly crafted revue-cum-history lesson brings together biography and song as it explores the changing expression of sexuality and gender on stage, through the First World War, into the glitzy 1920s and beyond.

In the back room of the Iron Duke pub, Ali Child and Rosie Wakley, the writer-performers of All the Nice Girls, pull back the curtain on a fascinating alternative world of onstage female cross-dressing and private same-sex relationships between the greatest stars of their day, such as Tallulah Bankhead, at a time of public hostility.

There is a fun atmosphere as Wakley and Child (who slips into the persona of performer Ella Shields) sing Ship Ahoy! in navy and military drag, before moving on to the likes of Oh, It’s a Lovely War! and, from 1926, Masculine Women, Feminine Men. It’s cheeky, touching and truly enlightening.

The shifts between education and performance are rough and ready, and Child (a former chorister) is both the better singer and more at home on stage. But what the show lacks in finesse, it counters with charm and conviction. With gay marriage finally here, this is a wonderfully vital insight into a different time.

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A cheeky, touching and enlightening peek into a fascinating world
Tom Wicker
Tom is a London-based freelance writer who also reviews for Time Out and contributes to publications including The Telegraph, Gay Times and Exeunt