Last week I attended the preview night of Nell Gwynn, a production by The Globe Theatre. Nell Gwynn was a real woman, from a rough background, who became one of Prince Charles II most loved Mistresses (he had a few!) and also one of the first women to grace the stage. She really is a fascinating person, so it’s no wonder she was chosen by The Globe to be the focus of a show all of her own.
This play can be summed up in one word. Bawdy, it is a romp through the more light-hearted aspects of this lively lass’s life, focusing on her well-known wit and comedy, with music and songs along the way. The play is set in the Restoration Period, which has a very recognisable style of over the top, fun theatricality that was emulated well here. The characters were larger than life, almost bordering on a pantomime style, which might be off-putting for some, but is very in fitting with the time period. The play uses this method well to present what could be quite complex ideas in an easy, effortless way, making it easily accessible for all.
Now it just so happens I know quite a bit about Nell Gwynn and the Restoration Period in which it was set. In fact I wrote my dissertation on one of Gwynn’s friends and have done a lot of reading on this time period. So did this help me enjoy this performance? Actually I think it sort of ruined it. As I already know the story I already knew exactly what was going to play out, and although it’s not a drama or a mystery, it did ruin some of the fun. I did love how the final words of the piece were real quotes (that I recognised, told you I was a nerd for this time period!)
The set design and costumes were very exuberant, bright and colourful, adding to the fun feeling of the piece. I did have a slight issue with the sound as at times the orchestra was so loud I struggled to hear the dialogue.
If you want a fun, light-hearted show with some songs to boot and a historical twist, this one’s for you!