Previewed 4 February 2016, Opened 12 February 2016, Closed 30 April 2016 at the Apollo Theatre in London
A transfer from the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre of Jessica Swale's acclaimed new play Nell Gwynn starring Gemma Arterton in the title role.
Following a limited season at the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre last year, Gemma Arterton joins the cast of Christopher Luscombe's acclaimed production in the title role. Gemma Arterton's West End stage theatre credits include the musical Made In Dagenham (Adelphi Theatre 2014) and Douglas Carter Beane's comedy The Little Dog Laughed (Garrick Theatre 2010). This production was originally seen at the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre from 19 September to 17 October 2015 with a cast that included Gugu Mbatha-Raw in the title role, please note for this West End ttransfer Gemma Arterton will take over the title role.
When this production opened here at the Apollo Theatre in February 2016, Patrick Marmion in The Daily Mail hailed it as being "never less than rollicking good fun, with gaudy characters including Gwynn’s sozzled Cockney mother, satirical set-pieces lampooning the King’s rival mistresses, and lashings of Carry On gags... This is not, however, an occasion for psychological insight and the tone of Christopher Luscombe’s hearty production is best characterised by the wobbly flats, giant tassels and dripping velvet of Hugh Durrant’s louche design." John Nathan in the Metro highlighted that "Jessica's Swale's sparky play about Nell Gwynn's rise and rise from strumpet to probably British theatre's first really famous actress is brimful of naughty lines, double entendres and deliciously dirty jokes... In her best stage performance yet, Gemma Arterton prtrays Nell Gwynn with as much sensuality as she does swagger... in Christopher Luscombe's joyful - if slightly overlong - production." Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph observed that "if the Restoration-era actress Nell Gwynn was half as enchanting as Gemma Arterton makes her out to be in this gloriously funny and touching bio-drama, then it’s small wonder that Charles II became besotted with her. This West End transfer is a triumph for Shakespeare's Globe and a breakthrough for its author Jessica Swale... this is a right royal treat. Go." Fiona Mountford in The London Evening Standard said: "How jolly-making it is, in these dreary February days, to find bouncing around in the West End Jessica Swale’s witty play about one of the most famous performers ever to have trod the London boards... Christopher Luscombe’s ebullient production, which is blessed with some ripe comic ditties from Nigel Hess, sweeps us up from the start in a blissful whirl of theatricals." Michael Billington in The Guardian commented that "it is tricky to transfer a play from the noisily interactive Shakespeare’s Globe to the politer environs of the West End. If Jessica Swale’s comedy survives the journey, it is for two reasons: because Gemma Arterton has a natural sparkle and because the play itself cannily mixes Carry On double-entendres with an explicitly feminist message... Hugh Durrant's designs are pleasantly colourful and Christopher Luscombe’s production whips the action along." Ann Treneman in The Times thought that "every member of this cast is good, if not great. The result is an absolute treat... Christopher Luscombe directs at a lively but never hurried pace and the set works so well you hardly know it's a set. It's a bawdy, witty, engaging romp. I can't imagine who it would offend but, as a package, it lifts you up and puts a smile on your face." Holly Williams in The Independent wrote that "this is a populist, fluffy, but big-hearted show, directed by Christopher Luscombe with extreme silliness; special mention must go to Michele Dotrice, whose comic timing as a befuddled wardrobe mistress reliably slays the audience."
"Jessica Swale exuberantly depicts Nell's rise from orange-seller in the Drury Lane pit to one of the finest comic actresses of the Restoration era and King Charles II's mistress. She skilfully captures the backstage politics in both the theatre and court and paints a fascinating portrait of 17th-century stage practices... Gemma Arterton gives her finest stage performance to date as 'pretty, witty' Nell and is surrounded by a splendid cast in Christopher Luscombe's expertly judged production." The Sunday Express
"Jessica Swale's theatrical romp presents a raunchy portrait of life backstage in the 17th century as Charles II returns to rule England, trailing behind him the odd idea that women should play women's roles... David Sturzaker's Charles falls for the Cheapside performer in a big way. Who wouldn't, given Gemma Arterton's ebullient, quick-witted Nell? Swale even manages to present her as a feminist icon. Some of the humour is a bit too broad now that Christopher Luscombe's production has come indoors, but Michele Dotrice is terrific as a reluctant thesp who can't get the hang of acting. A bawdy delight." The Sunday Times
"A rumbustious Restoration romp meets Carry On King Charlie, with a touch of My Fair Lady thrown in, it has its roots in history: Nell Gwynn was indeed a celebrated actor. But she is better known as the King's favourite mistress, and Jessica Swale suggests that it was a genuine love match, even if a pragmatic Gwynn was able to overcome her grief following the King's death and return to the stage... Christopher Luscombe's all-singing, dancing, deliciously silly - but never slight - production is all the better having transferred from Shakespeare's Globe to the Apollo, where it gets the lighting and sumptuous costumes it deserves, and stars the most darling King Charles spaniel. Huge fun." The Mail on Sunday
When this production was originally seen at the Shakespeare’s Globe in September 2015, with a cast that featured Gugu Mbatha-Raw in the title role, Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail highlighted that "Jessica Swale’s warm and hearty new play reinvents Nell Gwynn as a thoroughly modern model of social mobility who stuck up for her sisters... Swale’s bawdy play is a melee of puns, histrionic theatricality and court satire, mixed up with colourful social history." Catherine Love in the Guardian described it as "a play about theatre as much as anything else: its joy, its artifice and its uneasy marriage of entertainment and education." Ann Treneman in the Times wrote: "Bawdy. Funny. Poignant. That's Nell Gwynn, the new play by Jessica Swale... This play is a delight, silly and serious, as light as swan's down, full of crowd-pleasers, lilting music and sumptuous costumes." Claire Allfree in the Daily Telegraph explained that "it's quite a story, and playwright Jessica Swale seizes on it with gusto in this effervescent new comedy, which zig-zags with boisterous panache between the ego-fuelled rehearsal rooms of Drury Lane and the intrigue-soaked corridors of Charles II's beleaguered court... Without over-egging it, Christopher Luscombe's cast play to the gallery with modern-day jibes at austerity politics and the dearth of female playwrights, and even a dig at our own Duke of Cambridge. It's great fun." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times praised "playwright Jessica Swale's sparkling and infectiously good-natured text... Written in the style of a Restoration romp, her witty, vivacious drama revels in playing with the audience... but this is still a delightful, joyous evening with a serious undertow, as Swale points to the slow progress in finding gender equality across all of theatre." Nick Clark in the Independent thought that, "in keeping the laughs coming thick and fast, Jessica Swale's writing lacks the depth and character development needed to support what is meant to be an emotionally charged finale." Neil Norman in the Daily Express said that "Jessica Swale's play about the theatre orange seller who became an actress and subsequently King Charles II's mistress manages to be bawdily entertaining while using Nell Gwynn's robust character to champion the cause of today's actresses... Director Christopher Luscombe brings a touch of Carry On to the torrential innuendo and good-natured ribaldry and keeps the action flowing."
Nell Gwynn in London at the Apollo Theatre previewed from 4 February 2016, opened on 12 February 2016 and closed on 30 April 2016.