Previewed 19 September 2015, Opened 24 September 2015, Closed 17 October 2015 at the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
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
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 for the West End season.
The cast at London's Shakespeare Globe Theatre and the West End's Apollo Theatre featured Gugu Mbatha-Raw as 'Nell Gwynn' (Globe), Gemma Arterton as 'Nell Gwynn' (Apollo), Amanda Lawrence as 'Nancy' (Globe), Michele Dotrice as 'Nancy' (Apollo), Angus Imrie as 'Ned Spiggett' (Globe), Peter McGovern as 'Ned Spigget' (Apollo), Annelika Rose as 'Rose Gwynn', David Rintoul as 'Lord Arlington', David Sturzaker as 'King Charles II', Graham Butler as 'John Dryden' (Globe), Nicholas Shaw as 'John Dryden' (Apollo), Greg Haiste as 'Edward Kynaston', Jay Taylor as 'Charles Hart', Richard Katz as 'Thomas Killigrew' (Globe), Michael Garner as 'Thomas Killigrew' (Apollo), Sarah Woodward as 'Old Ma Gwynn'/'Queen Catherine', and Sasha Waddell as 'Lady Castlemaine'/'Louise de Keroualle'.
Directed by Christopher Luscombe, with choreography by Charlotte Bloom, designs by Hugh Durrant, lighting by Nick Richings (Apollo), music by Nigel Hess, and sound by Jeremy Dunn (Apollo).
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."
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.