Tag Archives: Nell Gwynn

Review of Nell Gwynn – 4 Stars


Nell Gwynn

Bridewell Theatre

Reviewed – 7th December 2017


“Wardlaw is simply charming as Nell. She easily carries the weight of the title character with ferocity, grace and always a cheeky look in her eye.”


Nell Gwynn is Jessica Swale’s 2015 play about the famous English actress and mistress of King Charles II. Written originally for The Globe Theatre starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw with a subsequent West End transfer starring Gemma Arterton, this amateur production directed by Roger Beaumont brings heart (if not polished professionalism) to Blackfriars.

Grace Wardlaw is simply charming as Nell. She easily carries the weight of the title character with ferocity, grace and always a cheeky look in her eye. Wardlaw will be snapped up by the West End very quickly if casting agents are paying attention. Having seen the original production, it’s not unfair to say Wardlaw gave original Nell – Mbatha-Raw a good run for her money. I can certainly see her playing Nancy in Oliver! in the not-to-distant-future.

James Dart (King Charles II) has an excellent time swanning about the palace in tights, playing at royalty, and his relationship with Nell is sweet and touching. Simon Brooke is a gorgeously camp, scene-stealing Edward Kynaston. In kimono and wig-cap, Brooke’s comic timing and physicality leave him as an audience favourite. Felix Grainger is spritely and enthusiastic as tortured playwright, John Dryden. And Valerie Antwi comes into her own in the second act playing the comical serving lady and reluctant actress, Nancy. (Although, it did feel uncomfortable that the only non-white member of the cast was a servant, particularly given the original non-white casting of Gwynn in 2015).

The show suffered from an unfortunately mistimed party above the venue, meaning quieter moments were lost in the background noise – a reminder that however good the acting, it’s often the venues that let amateur productions down.

The action takes place over several locations around London meaning the ensemble/stage hands had their work cut out for them. Scene changes were sometimes slow, but were peppered with characterisation like ensemble member Alice Boorman getting increasingly frustrated picking up Dryden’s discarded pages. Director Beaumont also provides an elaborately designed set complete with Royal Box. I felt it would have benefitted from a simpler, stripped down set with additional lighting as the combination of the set and costumes felt too busy for a small stage.

The live band led by Musical Director Jonathan Norris provided nice accompaniment in the musical numbers (particularly the catchy ‘I can dance and I can sing’), however some notes went astray as the show went on.

This show was far from perfect, but like Ms Gwynn, it had charm, wit and gusto.


Reviewed by TheatreFox

Photography by Richard Piwko


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Nell Gwynn

is at the Bridewell Street Theatre until 16th December



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English Touring Theatre’s Artistic Director Richard Twyman announces full casting for the tour of Jessica Swale’s Olivier Award-winning Nell Gwynn.

Joining the previously announced Laura Pitt-Pulford in Nell Gwynn, are Esh Alladi (Edward Kynaston), Nicholas Bishop (John Dryden), Pandora Clifford (Lady Castlemaine / Louise de Keroualle), Thea Collings (Ensemble), Michael Cochrane (Lord Arlington), Phillipa Flynn (Ensemble), Clive Hayward (Thomas Killigrew), Jack Helsby (Ensemble), Joanne Howarth (Queen Catherine / Old Ma Gwynn), Pepter Lunkuse (Rose Gwynn), George Jennings (Ned Spigget), Sam Marks (Charles Hart), Ben Righton (Charles II), Mossie Smith (Nancy) and Leon Stewart (Ensemble).  



It opens at the Lowry in Salford before performances at Theatre Royal Brighton, Malvern Theatre, Cambridge Arts Theatre, Hall for Cornwall, The Grand Blackpool, Edinburgh King’s Theatre and Theatre Royal Bath. 

For thespyinthestalls review of the London production

Click Here


Tour Details

English Touring Theatre in association with Nica Burns, Eleanor Lloyd Productions and Paula Marie Black present the Shakespeare’s Globe Production of:

Nell Gwynn

1660 Drury Lane. Charles II has cast off London’s drab, puritanical past with a love of all things loud and sexy. A young Nell Gwynn is selling oranges for sixpence in the burgeoning West End theatre scene unaware of who is in the audience one fateful night.

Jessica Swale’s warm-hearted, bawdy bio-drama (winner of 2016 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy) tells the story of an unlikely heroine, who went from lowly orange seller to win the adoration of the public and the heart of the King.


The Lowry, Salford

1-4 March

Box office: 0843 208 6000



Theatre Royal Brighton

7-11 March

Box office: 0844 871 7627



Malvern Theatre

14-18 March

Box office: 01684 892 277



Cambridge Arts Theatre

21-25 March

Box office: 01223 503 333



Yvonne Arnaud, Guildford

28 March – 1 April

Box office: 01483 440000



Hall for Cornwall

4-8 April

Box office: 01872 262 466



The Grand, Blackpool

11-15 April

Box office: 01253 290 190



Edinburgh Kings Theatre

18-22 April

Box office: 0131 529 6000



Theatre Royal Bath

25-29 April

Box office: 01225 448 844




Shakespeare’s Globe London

2 – 13 May

For further information and ticket release dates

Click Here