BWW Review: NELL GWYNN at Dolphin Theatre
Dolphin Theatre's "Nell Gwynn" claims to bring a 'riotous restoration romp' to the stage. While this is true, this production is so much more. Director Syd Mannion and his team have encapsulated the essence of what this story is about and this is crucial to the success of this production.
The characters are sensationally played; they are charismatic, exquisitely presented in delicious period costume and the story is supported with a craftily constructed set.
Add to this live music, singing and choreography that both honours the period and charms the audience.
First performed in 2015 at The Globe, London, Nell Gwynn won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 2016.
The retelling of Nell's rags-to-riches life, the famous restoration actress starts out as 'one of us' in the audience; an orange hawker who attracts the attention of performer Charles Hart and soon she's treading the boards herself, first at Drury Lane and then on the nation's stage, as the favoured mistress of King Charles II.
This is a story of feminism 1660s style; of a woman who craftily uses her 'place in life' to become a woman of influence. Women had their very defined and limiting roles in society but Nell plays this to her advantage using her wit and style to both proclaim and action that while women have 'skin and heart' they also have 'sense in their head'.
Lili Latham is outstanding in her role as Nell; wrapped up in a package that is classically stunning in both physicality and delivery. Latham makes us understand why and how Nell rose through the impenetrable ranks of the society of the time to become a woman of influence. This characterisation is crucial and she nails it.
But this isn't where 'outstanding' stops. I can't think of a character in the performance who wasn't as superbly delivered. I was so drawn into the story and mesmerised by this fabulous tale. I confess to being desensitised at times from seeing so many shows on a regular basis. I was very grateful for this experience.
Matthew Cousin's Charles Hart, Natasha Keene's Rose Gwynn, Doreen Tamihere-Kemey's Lady Castlemaine, Mike Daley's King Charles, John Edward's John Dryden, Raymond Vinten's Edward Kynaston, ...the list goes on!
Conversations in the car on the way home also included Brett Whyte's delivery of Lord Arlington, Kelly Harris has both Louise de Keroualle and ensemble member, Lisa Inman's Nancy. Oooh and we made mention of Ma Gwynn's cameo superbly played by Pandora Carlyon.
You'll have your favourites. There are many to choose from!
Amongst the laughs and the cleverly delivered bawdiness, there's also a strong message in this story that is of personal significance. Nell Gwynn is a play about theatre as much as anything else: she was one of the first women to appear on stage in England. Nell Gwynn is a people's heroine but she also has bigger concerns; boldly challenging the portrayal of women as frail, flimsy females on the stage and she has some success with this plight.
Whether it's the 1660's or today this is still an issue and Nell speaks up for it oh so well.
Go see it.
16 November - 8th December
12 Spring Road