London, 1660. King Charles II has exploded onto the scene with a love of all things loud, extravagant and sexy. And at Drury Lane, a young Nell Gwynn is causing stirrings amongst the theatregoers.
Nell Gwynn charts the rise of an unlikely heroine, from her roots in Coal Yard Alley to her success as Britain's most celebrated actress, and her hard-won place in the heart of the King. But at a time when women are second-class citizens, can her charm and spirit protect her from the dangers of the Court?
Jessica Swale's exhilarating take on the heady world of Restoration theatre premiered at Shakespeare's Globe, London, in September 2015, before transferring to the West End in February 2016, starring Gemma Arterton. It won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 2016.
Blog Post: Jessica Swale on resurrecting Nell Gwynn. 'If she was learning the craft, falling in love with acting, surely someone of her wit and intelligence would want better parts to play than the ‘wilting waifish woman’.' Read more >>
'Bawdy and brilliant... a wonderful, warm-hearted and generous piece of theatrical history'
'An out-and-out celebration of the fun of theatre… if you’re looking for laughs, and a romping brash show, this is great'
'Cannily mixes Carry On double-entendres with an explicitly feminist message… a love-letter to theatre itself and the cheerful chaos involved in putting on a play'
'Superbly funny… a juicy, well-wrought thing of great fun, a wonderfully layered celebration of theatre, but most of all an apt homage to a woman incredibly ahead of her time'
'[A] gloriously funny and touching bio-drama… a right royal treat'
'An absolute treat… a bawdy, witty, engaging romp'
'A rollicking good evening’s entertainment... an unending delight'
Jessica Swale is a writer and director, and the Artistic Director of Red Handed Theatre Company.
Her first play, Blue Stockings, premiered at Shakespeare’s Globe and won her a nomination for Most Promising Playwright in the Evening Standard Awards 2013. Other plays include Nell Gwynn and Thomas Tallis (both Shakespeare’s Globe); All’s Will That Ends Will (Bremer Shakespeare Company); adaptations of Far from the Madding Crowd, Sense and Sensibility (Watermill Theatre) and The Secret Garden (Grosvenor Park); and a new play, The Mission, about illegal adoptions in the 1920s.
She has directed a number of award-winning productions for Red Handed, which is dedicated to creating new work and rediscovering forgotten plays. Recent productions include The Rivals starring Celia Imrie, the London premiere of Palace of the End by Judith Thompson, and the first major revival of Hannah Cowley’s The Belle’s Stratagem, which won her a nomination for Best Director at the Evening Standard Awards.
Other direction includes Bedlam (Shakespeare’s Globe); Sleuth (Watermill); Fallen Angels (Salisbury Playhouse); Winter (TNL, Canada); The Busy Body, Someone to Watch Over Me (Southwark), The School for Scandal (Park Theatre); and productions at RADA and LAMDA. She was Max Stafford-Clark’s Associate Director at Out of Joint from 2007–2010.
She is an associate artist with Youth Bridge Global, an international NGO which uses theatre as a tool for promoting social change in war-torn and developing nations.
She has written three titles in Nick Hern Books’ popular Drama Games series: Drama Games for Classrooms and Workshops, Drama Games for Devising, and Drama Games for Rehearsals.