Nell Gwyn: An Epilogue
Play about a Restoration theatre star lacks dramatic substance
This article is from 2015.
Nell Gwyn has gone down in history as one of the most famous actresses of the Restoration era, but is perhaps better known as the mistress of King Charles II. This original play from Laura Ingram, starring Lucy Formby, tells her story, but the problem is there's not really a story to tell.
While the monologue does seek to explore the context of Nell's relationship with the King, little resolution is found within the storyline. We start with Gwyn explaining to the audience that she is his whore, and we end with the news that, actually, she is his mistress. In Nell's eyes, it's a step-up, but this minor reappropriation of the character's sexual role doesn't provide enough dramatic substance to carry a one-hour play.
No event of consequence takes place on stage, and the result is a repetitive monologue about Nell's place in the theatre and her relationship with the King. Though Formby performs assuredly and energetically, the part itself is the problem.
Gwyn was renowned for her stage presence, so it's ironic that this play should lack it so. There's no doubting Formby's talent, and moments of humour do land well, but ultimately this play, unlike Gwyn, is not likely to go down in theatre history.
Sweet Grassmarket, 243 3596, until 30 Aug, 4.55pm, £9 (£8).