Review: PRETTY, WITTY NELL a Standout Solo Show at Fringe
What an eye-opening lesson PRETTY, WITTY NELL was into the life of Nell Gwynne, the English actress who is perhaps best known as the mistress of Charles II, whose frank recklessness, generosity, invariable good temper, ready wit, infectious high spirits, and amazing indiscretions that were popular in society as well as the King's Court - until he died and Puritanism set in.
As performed by the "pretty and witty" Melanie Johnson, who manages to deliver writer/director Ryan J-W Smith's iambic pentameter monologue as if it was the most natural way for her to speak, I learned how this girl from the wrong side of the tracks, born as common as they come, made her way into court and flourished. Dressed a laced-up wench of the time, first selling oranges to those in the audience, Johnson went on to present wonderful character portrayals with a wide variety of accents as she shared Nell's amazing life journey.
One lesson I learned is that we can all thank Nell for her role in getting Charles II to give women the right to appear onstage in 1662, thanks to her free-spirited ability to entertain men in and out of the bedroom. I never knew she bore the king two illegitimate sons or that when Charles II died, his successor King James, a strict Roman Catholic, paid off her debts and his Queen took financial care of Gwynne and her surviving son.
This solo Fringe show was perfect just as it was! What a wonderful and totally entertaining way to learn tidbits of behind-the-scenes British history! No need to change a thing - other than to give it more performances to entertain a much wider audience.
Photo credit: Rich Clark