Nell Gwynn

September 20

November 4, 2018

CST’s Courtyard Theater

by Jessica Swale
directed by Christopher Luscombe

The Story

The Commonwealth is dead. Long live the King! As women first set foot upon the English stage, Nell Gwynn sells oranges at the new theater in Drury Lane to help support her sister Rose and mother. Crushing a heckling patron with her sharp wit and comedic grace, Nell catches the eye (and affection) of Charles Hart, lead actor in the King’s Company. Under Hart’s tutelage, she channels her charms toward a different kind of performance, impressing the theater manager, Thomas Killigrew, as well as the playwright, John Dryden. And so it is that Nell swaps orange selling in the audience for acting on the stage.

As she enchants her theater-going public, Nell also captures the heart of England’s new king, for whom mistresses offer the spice of life. Resisting the fierce objections of Lord Arlington, his chief political advisor, King Charles II grows devoted to a young actress raised up from her mother’s Coal Yard Alley brothel. And Nell, as she assumes the role of England’s favorite leading lady, soon becomes a king’s, as well. But with the affections of Charles comes, too, the acrimony of court life, and Nell must choose her favorite part to play.

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