Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Review: Nell Gwynn at the Apollo Theatre starring Gemma Arterton

Nell Gwynn 
Apollo Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 16th February 2016

Jessica Swale’s new play Nell Gwynn, which has transferred to the West End following a short season at the Globe, is an absolute must see. I took my seat at the Apollo knowing nothing about the piece - somehow I hadn't even glanced at a review or taken notice of a star rating - and proceeded to have the most joyously incredible evening.

The play tells an interesting part of theatrical history, following fruit seller-turned-actress Nell Gwynn who was the long-time mistress of King Charles II. In early scenes Swale has written some hysterical lines about the role of women in theatre in the 1660s, the style and tone of the entire piece is utter perfection. We are able to laugh at the absurdity of it all whilst also latching onto the central character - director Christopher Luscombe has truly done an incredible job, he and Swale are clearly a force to be reckoned with.

Gemma Arterton has joined the show for its West End transfer; she leads the most magnificent ensemble of actors, each of whom gives a triumphant stand out performance. Every performer is fully in sync with the style and tone - the company seem to have an absolute ball. Big mentions must go to the comical genius that is Michele Dotrice who brings the house down as Nell's dresser as well as the wickedly funny Greg Haiste as an actor who is convinced he can portray a woman on stage better than any woman could herself. 

To have musicians performing live throughout a play is such a luxury; the music performed throughout, written by Nigel Hess, creates the most excitingly magical of atmospheres. There are a couple of songs featured, one of which I found myself singing as I left the theatre. 

Arterton's vocal talents have grown considerably since her stint in West End musical Made In Dagenham, both her range and vocal power are far more impressive. She is perfectly cast as Nell Gwynn; it's a demanding role and despite rarely leaving the stage, Arterton  owns each scene - she is stronger than ever.

The regular Tuesday night audience were roaring with laughter throughout - the atmosphere would have been impressive for a Saturday night, let alone a cold Tuesday evening. Nell Gwynn is an outstanding piece of theatre, grab a ticket before it's too late!

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Nell Gwynn runs at the Apollo Theatre until 30th April 2016.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton

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