A comedy double act since their university days and now working as nannies, Lea and Amy dream of success at the Edinburgh fringe. This year will surely bring their big break. With the festival fast approaching, they prepare the act during a weekly “stay and play” session in a church hall as they nanny the coddled offspring of wealthy north London mums.

Directed for Folio theatre company by Jenny Rainsford, starring Alana Ramsey as Amy, Lizzie Stables as Lea, and co-written by all three, Nanny’s episodic nature allows it to move at a brisk pace and the performances are charming. It is billed as a play with songs, composed by Matthew Floyd Jones, and the musical numbers are sung acoustically within a theatrical setting. There’s something notably effective about hearing them without the usual flattening amplification.

However, despite the performances and harmonies the dramatic conceit never quite fully coheres. The plotting feels condensed and sometimes contrived, strained by the continuous deus ex machina of showbiz emails and texts and the interruptions of offstage children’s needs. Its comedic tone is undefined: not uncanny enough to be absurd, insufficiently self-reflexive to be knowingly ironic, and not remotely cutting enough to satirise what it sometimes seems to be mocking.

Lizzie Stables (left) and Alana Ramsey. Photograph: Lidia Crisafulli

This is a problem for a play, even a lighthearted comedic one, that is essentially about the tribulations of characters with some privilege and it’s never quite clear how we’re supposed to feel about them. When the songs do have some bite, as in The Perfect Mum (audaciously ending “I’d kill to give birth to me”), it hints at a specific tonal viewpoint that otherwise remains elusive. We are told that Amy and Lea’s double act aims for “more sparkle, less politics”, but a bit more of either would have been to Nanny’s benefit.

From moment to moment, it’s all very gentle and pleasing enough, and echoes the cadences of an undemanding radio comedy. You can’t help but wonder if the conceit would have been better served by a series of standalone episodes rather than an episodic play, allowing time for its drama and humour to evolve more organically.


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