Sunday, 11 October 2015

nell gwynn

On Saturday 19 September, at the last minute (we'd just eaten across the road and went in to pick up a leaflet), the younger generation and I went to the Globe to see Nell Gwynn, a new play by Jessica Swale (the first night, as it happened) - Bethan didn't fancy it and went home. I was glad to go, as I hadn't been this year.

We got £15 seats in the lowest seats, in the very left-hand section but in the back row so there was a wall behind us to lean on, which makes it the best row. If I'd been by myself I'd have got a £5 standing ticket, but it would have been too long for us both to stand. She did want to give standing a go, though, so we stood for the first half, mostly at the left-hand side of the stage. (The man who sold us the tickets said that we would be able to walk down into the ground from where we were sitting, when he saw that we were thinking about it. I'd also asked him about age suitability, and he said they didn't have an age suggestion, and there was some language but nothing else that he was aware of (and he was right; I thought it was worth checking, as it could have been quite adult given the story).) It was nice to be able to go to our seats for the second half; there were people sitting in our seats during the first half, which we didn't mind, but they weren't there for the second half; a few others were absent too, I guess either because they'd gone for better seats they'd seen empty, or they'd decided to stand. The seats were a fairly similar view to what we'd had standing - often behind the actors, sometimes with a big pillar between us and them - with the drawback that you couldn't move about to allow for where things were happening to get a better view.

We thought it was a pretty good play, and enjoyed it. We have a lot to be thankful to Horrible Histories for, in getting children familiar with history. As with Julius Caesar, when we went last year, we missed some of the dialogue because of where we were standing/sitting, but nothing too major. I liked the approach they'd taken, using the theatrical company as the way in to the story and the focus of much of the action, rather than the court. (The programme was a good one too, historically informative.) It was well done, well acted, pretty funny and some good songs (I guess original).

Some of the faces were familiar, mostly from the Globe. Amanda Lawrence, as Nancy, Nell's dresser, got a lot of the laughs, sometimes for business we couldn't see, especially the scene where she is called upon to be an actress, and I'd guess she'd do well in reviews. When I saw that Graham Butler, who was playing Dryden, had been in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, I then recognised him as the lead from that when we saw it, from some of his mannerisms. The programme told me that Gugu Mbatha-Raw was in a Donmar Hamlet; Wikipedia indicates that she was Ophelia to Jude Law's Hamlet; I remember very little about that production (not sure I blogged it) except feeling very sleepy and Jude in front of a wall in the snow, so without reading some reviews to possibly remind me, I don't remember anything about her performance in that (I certainly didn't recognise her from it); but she was certainly good in this.

Some reviews from the first couple of pages of a Google search. Guardian. Financial Times (agree with it that the theatre scenes are the best). Telegraph. Culture Whisper (new to me, I think). The Stage. Evening Standard. An Independent interview with Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Jessica Swale (in which the interviewer asks about casting a non-white actress as Nell, which I realise made no impression on me at the time at all, so used am I to what they call 'colour-blind casting' in plays (particularly in plays set or written in pre-20th-century Britain)). The Arts Desk. Sunday Express. The Hollywood Reporter (first appearance in my blog, I think. A good line: 'Mindful that the story of a poor girl who screws her way to the top isn't exactly what today's audiences would consider an empowering narrative, Swale's play takes pains to paint Nell as a proto-feminist class warrior whose innate honesty and instincts about what makes people tick keep her afloat'. Also: 'Oddly, given the play is about a woman whose sexuality, perceived and actual, was so much a part of her success, the show is peculiarly lacking in body contact between the actors beyond a few chaste kisses' - which I was very happy about, I have to say). What's On Stage. BritishTheatre.com. Time Out. South London Press. A Younger Theatre. TheatreCat. Several reviews refer to Gugu as a rising Hollywood star. The reviews are almost uniformly positive (The Arts Desk's probably the least positive; negative comments in general relate to lack of depth/analysis and broadness/crowdpleasingness/Blackadderishness of humour, neither of which bothered me).