Thursday Theatre : Nell Gwynn – theatre review

Nell Gwynn, playing a limited season at the Apollo theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, is a delight of a play. Bawdy, good natured,knowing, exuberant fun befitting the life of the titular heroine.
‘Pretty, witty Nell,’ actress and mistress of Charles ll is played with obvious relish by Gemma Arterton who is so much more beautiful and vivacious in the flesh than she appears on the screen. She takes on the role of this unlikely early feminist with gusto. Whether cheekily selling oranges for sixpence while heckling the all male theatre troupes of 17th century Drury Lane, learning lines as a budding actress or seducing the king, she bubbles with enthusiasm and irresistible joy. In this she is ably supported by a great cast also enjoying themselves as they run giddily through life on both sides of the theatre curtain.
As Nell would have done, the cast play to the gallery, occasionally in pure pantomime style but the interplay between actor and audience is natural, humorous and timely. In fact, the whole play has the feel of something current. Nell Gwynn is a thoroughly modern gal.
Written by Jessica Swale, the play has transferred to the West End after its succesfula Shakespeare’s Globe run.
Catch it while you can.

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