“They’ve disgraced our trade. Ruined our art. They’ve put a woman on the stage.”
At first glance, James Bond and Restoration Comedy might not seem to be natural bed-fellows. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find both contain a world of brave, brash and bawdy women unafraid to charm and calculate their way to notoriety. The Pussy Galore of the Seventeenth Century was without doubt Nell Gwynn, a woman who helped to challenge the male dominated world of British Theatre and went on to immortality in the names of numerous pubs.
So who better to play this Jewel of the Restoration than Bond Girl Gemma Arterton? One of the finest young talents of her generation, don’t underestimate Arterton’s versatility. She is a fine stage actress with a hugely diverse CV ranging from leading roles in Ibsen’s The Master Builder (Almeida) to Made In Dagenham (Adelphi). Like Nell herself, Arterton is ambitious, witty and fearless.
Jessica Swale’s blissfully entertaining comedy, Nell Gwynn, comes to the Apollo Theatre from 4th February 2016. Nell Gwynn celebrates an unlikely heroine, who went from Front of House orange seller to top comedy Actress, winning the adoration of the public and the heart of the King in the process.
Although best known now as the mistress of King Charles II, here are five things you may not know about Nell Gwynn:
- She was nick-named “Cinder Nelly” and did actually buy a glass carriage!
- She had a mouth like a sewer
Courtiers at the Palace said ‘Anybody may know she has been an orange-wench by her swearing’
- Her son was the Duke of St Albans
Nell made good use of her filthy tongue. She reputedly called “Come here you little bastard” to her son in front of a horrified King. As Nell said, “what should she call him, was not bastard true?” A Dukedom followed very quickly.
- Nell’s greatest rival was the Duchess of Portsmouth, the Catholic Louise de Keroualle
When Nell was insulted by a crowd, she leant out of her carriage and cried “Pray good people be civil, I am the Protestant whore”
- She almost ended up in the Debtor’s Prison
Following King Charles’s death in 1685, Nell appealed to King James who settled her immediate debts and provided her a pension of £1500 a year
Following a critically acclaimed and sell-out limited season of 11 performances at Shakespeare’s Globe, don’t miss this opportunity to see Nell Gwynn in the West End.
Until 30th Apr 2016
Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue
‘A delight, silly and serious… full of crowd pleasers, lilting music and sumptuous costumes… there is even a dog.’
‘Falls between Restoration comedy, My Fair Lady, Carry On films and Blackadder.’