Nell Gwynn – Jessica Swale
Theatre Royal Bath
English Touring Theatre
This is an absolute gem of a production that sparkles so brightly. It is a glorious show full of razor sharp wit and comedy yet it also has a huge heart and such sincerity it is hard to imagine a more perfect combination.
Jessica Swale has created a wonderful tale, weaving fact with fiction alongside old and modern. There are nods to Brexit, melodrama and cheeky swipes at renaissance London. The writing is sublime and the cast relish every moment of this assured, stylish production.
Nell Gywnn is the story of the orange selling prostitute who rose to fame as an actress in the company of Charles Hart and eventually became the mistress of King Charles II. The historical accuracy of the work of Dryden and Killigrew’s Kings Company is fascinating and the individual creations of the glorious characters in the company that Gywnn worked with are pure gold.
Directed by Christopher Luscombe, from the outset this production is steeped in quality. The key to the success of this play is the strength, wit and spirit of the titular character. Laura Pitt – Pulford as Nell is flawless. Her endless determination is inspiring and she allows the audience to ride the waves and troughs of her life with huge generousity it is a mesmerising performance. She is matched at all levels by the company. Esh Alladi (Edward Kynaston) is every director’s nightmare who delights the audience at every step. Ben Righton (Charles II) is a suitably suave suitor yet reluctant Royal. Sam Marks (Charles Hart) and Nicholas Bishop (John Dryden) capture the pressures and egos of the Kings Company beautifully.
The music (Nigel Hess) and choreography (Charlotte Broom) bring the bawdiness of the era to life in an instant with the onstage musicians under the direction of Emily Baines. The stage design by Hugh Durrant is reminiscent of The Globe whilst the costumes shimmer with elegance and fun under the lighting of Nick Richings.
This is an excellent show and whilst it is on its way back to a much deserved run at The Globe, to let it leave Bath without a visit would be a great shame. It is an experience to treasure.
***** 5 stars