Editing phase 1 has been completed for my Monmouth book and I am happy to announce that the title has officially changed to The Duke of Monmouth, His Life and Rebellion and after a few weeks off and settling into a new Temp assignment it is time to start working on Book two before proofs arrive to be checked.
This weekend I therefore book my annual treat at the Globe to end this phase in the process. when looking at what was on this years Nell Gywnn seemed to be the perfect play to go and see.
There is a certain irony that my two favourite plays seen at the Globe on London’s Southbank have both been contemporary plays about real historical women. Until yesterdays annual visit to the Globe Anne Boleyn by Howard Brenton was my ultimate favourite experience of the last 12 years. But Nell Gwynn has just equalled it.
As part of the Summer of Love season at the Globe which unfortunately is still under the artistic directorship of Emma Rice, Nell Gwynn is a relatively new contemporary play based on the real life of Eleanor Gwynn one time the girl from the gutter who rose to be an actress and the favourite mistress of Charles II.
The play written by Jessica Swale was debuted with Actress and starlet Gemma Arterton as Nell to rave reviews in October 2015 at the Globe. The production has been revived as of this season’s repertoire.
As far as staging is concerned it was one of the more prop heavy productions I have seen at the Globe but that did not take away from the experience. the costumery was fabulous especially the male costumes and they gave a real visual taste of 17th century.
Having just finished writing a book of this period based on the one of the leading political and court figures of Charles II restoration reign, I can attire than the historiography was mostly sound with even some excellent use of quoted Primary sources. however Charles II was not at his fathers execution. having additional knowledge was a bonus as small references made in the play such as the Royal Oak, Lady Castlemaine trying to trick Charles into executing the Earl of Clarendon tickled me. There were even brief references to the Exclusion crisis although no mention of the duke of Monmouth, but it was enough to make me smile.
The play was witty and funny, the actor playing Charles II, Ben Righton, had comic timing and was the right side of truth and caricature. Gwynn was played by Laura Pitt-Pulford captured the spirit of Charles’s Little Nelly well. the biggest star of the show however goes to Esh Alladi, for a performance that would have been just as on point in La Cage aux Folles. He played Edward the kings company’s “leading lady” with Linen Tits and who found himself demoted when the company of players promoted Nell from Orange Seller to Actress to compete with the Dukes company of players who had Moll Davis within there company.
In fairness the full cast were amazing, witty, great fun and excellent. There were quirky and contemporary points on Europe that raised a laugh. all in all very good.
The only oddities if I am being very very picky would be that maybe Clarendon would have been a better choice of minister than Arlington and he certainly had as many caricature and satirical elements to him. I was unfused with the depiction of Catherine of Braganza but will happily say that is due to too much knowledge and a soft spot for her. this was a caricature artistic exaggeration not a history lesson. I can not help but think this may have been better suited to the Sam Wannamaker theatre due to its 17th Century content but I am glad it was staged on the Globe stage as I am still unsure if I will see any shakespeare at the Globe while Emma Rice is Artistic director – Last years bizarre interpretations have put me off.
Bawdy, witty, comic, fun and satirical all in all what the spirit of the Globe is all about. it is a must catch. Tickets can be brought via the Globe website and start from £5.