BWW Review: NELL GWYNN, King's Theatre, Edinburgh

BWW Review: NELL GWYNN, King's Theatre, EdinburghBWW Review: NELL GWYNN, King's Theatre, EdinburghJessica Swale's acclaimed play Nell Gwynn, which charts the unlikely heroine in her journey from orange seller to national treasure, enjoyed a successful premiere run at Shakespeare's Globe in 2015, followed by a three-month transfer to London's Apollo Theatre. This new UK tour produced by English Touring Theatre will culminate in a two-week return to the Globe in May.

It is 1660. Leading actor in the King's Company, Charles Hart, decides to train Nell Gwynn as an actress, just before women are first allowed on the London stage, and the pair subsequently become lovers. When King Charles II grants permission for women to act, Gwynn joins Hart in the King's Company. This decision is backed by most of the Company's actors except Edward Kynaston, who had previously played the leading female roles. It's not long before King Charles sees Gwynn onstage, and becomes greatly attracted to her.

Laura Pitt-Pulford shines very brightly indeed in the title role previously portrayed by Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Gemma Arterton. Pitt-Pulford is barely offstage throughout - she skilfully leads the cast in saucy, well-staged song and dance numbers, but equally wins the audience's sympathy in her battles with lovers and royalty.

This is by no means a one-woman show, though, and both Ben Righton (King Charles II) and Michael Cochrane (Lord Arlington, the King's advisor) are particularly worthy of mention. Their relationship is very believable, and they are responsible for the loudest, show-stopping laugh of the evening, in an exchange between the two of them on the consequences if Britain was to leave Europe.

Hugh Durrant's set design of part of a theatre is beautifully lavish, fitting for a King's Company to perform in, and it's a nice touch that the set is also on display both prior to the start and during the interval, to allow the audience to fully appreciate it.

Christopher Luscombe's direction is particularly effective when characters appear from positions other than on the main stage. This is especially the case in the opening minutes, which created an impression that the production was being staged at the Globe, and at no point thereafter does the quality lower to serve as a reminder that this is not the case.

Whilst less time devoted to song and dance numbers would have allowed more time to explore the backstory of the play's heroine through further dialogue, it's the lighthearted moments that make Nell Gwynn a standout, and overall this is a first-rate quality production.

t is also laced with contemporary in-jokes, never more so than in one exchange between Charles II and his advisor Lord Arlington on the merits of leaving Europe.

Read more at: http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/entertainment/review-nell-gwynn-pretty-witty-nell-is-a-bawdy-brilliant-must-see-1-4423210
t is also laced with contemporary in-jokes, never more so than in one exchange between Charles II and his advisor Lord Arlington on the merits of leaving Europe.

Read more at: http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/entertainment/review-nell-gwynn-pretty-witty-nell-is-a-bawdy-brilliant-must-see-1-4423210

Nell Gwynn runs at Edinburgh's King's Theatre until 22 April, and continues on UK Tour.

Read our interview with Laura Pitt-Pulford

Picture credit: Tristram Kenton

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