Nell Gwynn

Reporter: Matthew Amer, first published Mon 15 Feb 2016 15:46

What’s it all about?

Cheeky orange seller turned stage phenomenon and lover to King Charles II, Nell Gwynn. It follows the filthy minded queen of the London stage from her extremely humble beginnings through her time at the king’s right hand (and his left hand and anything else… etc) to her triumphant theatrical return.

But if you’re thinking this is some kind of history lesson, think again, unless your history lessons come with more bawdy humour than you can shake a box set of Carry On films at, enough dancing to thrill a Strictly fan and a very cute dog who waves at the audience. Ahhhhhh.

Who’s in it?

Gemma Arterton, who has the perfect comic timing of a clown’s wristwatch, proves herself every inch the West End star with a performance as Gwynn that channels all the gloriously charming muckiness of Babs Windsor while still being able to evoke a surprising innocence, pain and grief with just her eyes.

What should I look out for?

Michele Dotrice coming close to stealing the show as Nell’s dresser Nancy, whose inability to perform on stage brings farcical levels of hysteria to the auditorium.

Sarah Woodward coming close to stealing the show when portraying the rightly enraged Portuguese wife of Charles II. Let’s just say you don’t need to understand Portuguese to catch her drift.

Milly the dog coming close to stealing the show just by being a dog.

In a nutshell?

Gemma Arterton is glorious in a comedy more enjoyable and filthy than slurping champagne in a mud bath.

What’s being said on Twitter?

Will I like it?

This is a joyful evening of theatre. Arterton is a sparkling stage presence, creating a Gwynn strong enough to take a massive step onto the stage for women, taunt monarchs and stand up to politicians, but with a frailty hidden not far below the surface.

At times it could be Carry On Nell Gwynn – and that is no bad thing – but playwright Jessica Swale has put far more in to win over her audience, from knowing nods to modern times to, you know, a dog, and director Christopher Luscombe has help his cast deliver performances as belly laugh-inducingly funny as I remember seeing in the West End.

So yes, you will.

Nell Gwynn runs at the Apollo Theatre to 30 April. You can book tickets through us here.