'An unending delight...' - Evening Standard
'A celebration of the stage for its own sake, and a riotous end-of-term romp' - WhatsOnStage
Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard II… you’ve heard of - and possibly seen - them all. But now there’s a new lead in town who is gripping Globe audiences, AND she’s a woman…
Meet Nell Gywnn. This little known historical figure has quite a story: from prostitute to orange seller, actress to the King’s mistress, it’s no surprise Jessica Swale’s comedy retelling has become a huge hit over at the famous wooden O. As a proud partner of the Globe, we couldn’t wait to go and see it for ourselves.
The vivacious Gugu Mbatha-Raw was captivating as our heroine, winning us over instantly with her fierce wit and flirtatious charm. From the moment she stepped on stage we were rooting for her. She was one of us, after all, beginning her role quite literally on our level in amongst the groundlings; a spectator herself.
We in the audience became involved from the start, acting as both the spectators to Nell Gwynn and to the plays performed within it. This gripping engagement continued throughout as characters weaved in and out of the audience, resulting in a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere in which we felt free to laugh along; and laugh we did!
David Sturzaker as our King Charles II was the perfect balance of leery and preposterous, making our stomachs churn as he seduced our beloved Nell, yet gaining our empathy when we saw he had true feelings for her. A particular mention must also go to Amanda Lawrence as Nancy. Somewhere between Father Ted’s Mrs Doyle and Blackadder’s Nursie, Lawrence had the audience in fits of laughter as her character struggled with lines and stage directions.
Whilst Nell Gwynn is undoubtedly a comedy, the play does touch upon more serious issues relating to politics and gender (albeit amidst rude ditties about scandalous encounters and underhand digs at the French!) Initially, it shows the introduction of female actors onto the stage, however by the end of the play, the concern is no longer to do with women being allowed to act in the theatre, but the weak female characters they have to portray. Having gained the confidence to seek a stronger role, Nell finally finds her voice by writing and delivering the epilogue, which acts as both the closing to their play, and to ours.
If you think you’ve missed your chance to catch this spectacular show for yourself - think again. There’s still time to book, with performances running until Saturday 17th October. Don’t forget, we also offer special rates for Globe audiences, with our flagship Grange St. Paul’s Hotel just a short stroll away across Millennium Bridge. Click here for details.