Without Ian Smith, there would be no Television Workshop. He was the director from 1987-2015 and led them to win a BAFTA for their contribution in breeding new actors. So it’s lovely to see he’s still actively involved in the organisation by directing this, the second play in their annual season.
Nell Gwynn might be set in the 1600s, but in the current climate of gender pay gaps it’s highly prescient. The title character - played excellently here by Chloe Oxley - is an orange seller who gets a chance to act at in the King’s Company, at a time when the idea of women acting was controversial. She flourishes in the role and begins to take centre-stage under the guidance of leading actor Charles Hart - played by James Barker.
Eventually she gets the attention of King Charles II - played by Jake Dunn, who is reminiscent of a of a Withnail-era Richard E Grant - who moves her into the palace as his mistress. They fall in love, but the odds are stacked against them, with the likes of Lord Arlington (Jahrel Patterson) clearly disapproving. To tell you much more, would spoil the story but it’s written by Jessica Swayle and based upon the true historical story.
This is another wonderful effort from one of the most prolific schools for young actors in the country. The current season features four plays, but this is the most traditional ‘theatre’ one among them. It’s wonderfully acted throughout; including a crowd-pleasing performance from Beau the dog as Oliver Cromwell and the hilarity of Harry Gilby as Edward Kynaston. We’re told that there are different actors covering the roles on various nights – which makes this an even more unbelievable effort.
Their season lasts another two weeks. If you want to see guaranteed acting talent of the future then go see.