by Jessica Swale.
Shakespeare’s Globe 21 New Globe Walk Bankside SE1 9DT In rep to 17 October 2015.
1pm 4, 11 Oct.
2pm 17 Oct.
7.30pm 3, 10 Oct.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7401 9919.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 September.
Laughs galore with Charles’ Protestant whore.
There’s an end-of-term feel to the Globe’s end-of-season show. Or it could be an early pantomime, snook-cocking at the incongruity of a play about the indoor Restoration theatre occupying this open-air stage.
Jessica Swale’s script has a true Globe swagger, keeping things moving, presenting rather than exploring characters, and encouraging panto-like cheers as King Charles II delivers, with the self-consciousness of a practised Dame, lines on the importance of theatre and the pointlessness of Austerity which receive their destined approving roars all-round. There’s even a live King Charles spaniel trotted-on and carried-off to ooh, aahing audience delight.
A couple of years ago Swale’s Blue Stockings took well to this stage in telling about the struggle for women’s right to graduate at Cambridge University. But don’t cue too much by way of feisty female fights for fame in her story of the girl from the gutter who learned oranges, whether or not the only fruit, aren’t the sole way to get on in theatre and brazenly identified herself in anti-Catholic days as “the king’s Protestant whore”.
Male actor Charles Hart encourages her to overcome her shyness. Nell remains grateful but Swale doesn’t, abandoning him to sitting around, spare-part like, once he’s given Gwynn her start in stage life.
Her chief bête noir is Edward Kynaston, concerned for his career acting female roles; but he’s a panto-villain, prancing and posturing when he’s not being ignored. With such an enemy, and powerful friends, Nell proceeds on her gracious way, it being left to Sarah Woodward (delightfully cast too as Charles’s Queen) seen briefly as her slatternly mother to indicate humble origins.
There are stands of politics, but nothing that can’t be laughed off. And laughter, whether or not it was the topmost point of the play’s ambition, engulfs it throughout. Christopher Luscombe’s production becomes a display-case of theatrical skill in comedy. For, while Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Nell has the due strength and generosity of spirit to be expected of a good Cinderella, it’s unsurprisingly the deft wit and skilful physical patterning of Amanda Lawrence as the servant Nancy that runs off with the show.
Nell Gwynn: Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
Rose Gwynn/Louise de Kéroualle: Anneika Rose.
Old Ma Gwynn/Quyeen Catherine: Sarah Woodward.
Nancy: Amanda Lawrence.
Lady Castlemaine: Sasha Waddell.
Charles II: David Sturzaker.
Charles Hart: Jay Taylor.
Thomas Killigrew: Richard Katz,
Edward Kynaston: Greg Haiste.
John Dryden: Graham Butler.
Lord Arlington: David Rintoul.
Ned Spigget: Angus Imrs.
Actors/Courtiers/Servants: George Jennings, Stiofân O’Doherty.
Oliver Cromwell: Monnie.
Director: Christopher Luscombe.
Designer: Hugh Durrant.
Composer: Nigel Hess.
Choreographer: Charlotte Broom.
Globe associate – Movement: Glynn Macdonald.
Voice/Dialect: Martin McKellan, Alex Bingley.
Assistant director: Matthew Dann.