STAGE REVIEW: Nell Gwynn - at the Festival Theatre, Malvern, from Tuesday, March 14 to Saturday, Saturday, March 18, 2017.
IT would seem - to pinch a line from a well known tv advert - you can’t get better than a bit of bawdy fun.
Not only is it on the label, it’s definitely in the London air and the audience isn’t at all left disappointed.
There so much frivolity, flippancy, flirtatiousness, and downright good old fashioned fun, the audience would have been hard pressed, or should that be squeezed, to get anything further from Nell’s offering of oranges!
What a perfect way to perk up matters in the middle of March, and as bright as the weather has been this week.
Jessica Swale’s English history play is based on the ambition, adventures and amorous liaisons of the 17th century orange-seller turned actress Nell Gwynn, and the script could have just been plucked off the tree as it is as ripe and juicy as the fruits our heroine is attempting to hawk around the streets of theatre-land.
Rude ditties, cheeky innuendo and any number of great one-line gags - including a Brexit reference - keep it rattling along at a rare old rate of knots, and woven into the mix is an issue we still hear so much about - equality.
Nell, warmly portrayed by the outstanding Laura Pitt-Pulford, is the core of the play’s underlying serious feminist thread which has women treading the boards for the first time and challenging what until then had been the male-dominated cultural confines.
She becomes mistress of King Charles II, delightfully played here by Ben Righton - all charm and his royal cheekiness, having earlier fallen for the leading actor in the King’s Company, Charles Hart, which drew another first class performance from Sam Marks.
Pandora Clifford and Michael Cochrane scheme superbly together to influence the King as ready-to-be rebuffed mistress, Lady Castlemaine, and Royal advisor Lord Arlington. All in all a fine cast on form with not a weak link in view.
Christopher Luscombe’s directorial skills too allow it all to unfold with a welcome hint of silliness in front of a first class set and to an exceptional musical accompaniment.
This is a re-cast production from the English Touring Theatre after the show had carried all before it at Shakespeare’s Globe and in the West End, where it was acclaimed winner of best new comedy in the 2016 Olivier Awards.
And the good work continues…
It’s so salaciously special and a treat to be treasured. Specifically not one to be missed and should be made a priority within your schedule.