Reviews: The Restoration of Nell Gwyn

The Times

The Restoration of Nell Gwyn at Park 90, London

Steve Trafford’s two-hander is crammed with historical detail, served up like titbits of delicious gossip, in language as oozingly flavoursome as one of Nell’s overripe oranges. It’s also touched with melancholy, the unpalatable realities of a cruelly unequal society lurking behind its painted smiles and ribald humour. Yet there’s much to enjoy. Woven into the narrative are songs by Henry Purcell, performed with plaintive loveliness by Mansfield. Above all, the piece is joyous, riotously a-clatter with comic business and glittering with filthy wit... Pungent, salty, yet also, as Nell wistfully sings, an entertainment “sweeter than roses”.


The Restoration of Nell Gwyn at Park 90, London

Steve Trafford’s play triumphs in bringing Restoration-style dramatic comedy into a modern day perspective, inviting its audience to consider life and death, love, loss and ultimately survival… a play that draws together the personal and political. Henry Purcell’s music is interspersed throughout, and Mansfield puts her operatic training to good use in lending a beautiful voice to the lyrics.

The true intrigue is in the mentality of Nell, her relationship with Margery, and her tenuous role in a man’s world… an accomplished two-hander filled with wry humour and a feeling of determination to thrive in the face of adversity.

Ham and High Gazette

The Restoration of Nell Gwyn at Park 90, London

‘The Restoration of Nell Gwyn’ opens a compelling window onto Restoration England. One hundred minutes of stage time fly by with razor sharp and tavern witty dialogue. As a bonus Henry Purcell’s songs are wonderfully sung by Elizabeth Mansfield. The dialogue sparkles and paints a picture of life in the seventeenth century: manners, politics, health, theatre, sexual mores and contraception. Wonderfully bawdy, insightful and touching.


The Restoration of Nell Gwyn at Park 90, London

Steve Trafford’s delightful two-hander … his witty script touches lightly, now comically and now pathetically, on themes which crackle with contemporaneity. Elizabeth Mansfield is a terrific Nell, full of swagger and wit, and she displays a sweet singing voice in several numbers by Purcell. Angela Curran is equally excellent as her plain-speaking maid, and her timing is masterly.

Gay Star News

The Restoration of Nell Gwyn at Park 90, London.

Steve Trafford’s play – The Restoration of Nell Gwyn – imagines the final days of Charles II, setting all of the action in Nell’s London townhouse as she waits for news of the King’s health, painfully aware that her home and comfort depends on the his continued favour.

This is a two-handed play with Nell’s faithful maid Margery (Angela Curran) a salt-of-the-earth foil for the emotional rollercoaster of Nell (Elizabeth Mansfield).

The studio at the Park Theatre is an intimate space, and it leaves actors nowhere to hide. But Mansfield and Curran command the bare stage and bring to life fully realised and authentic characters that transport you to the unsettled streets of London and the intrigues of a royal court in turmoil. It’s brilliantly performed.

Tightly written, both characters are given some terrific lines and moments of comedy – drawing on the Elizabethan traditions of theatre with a touch of Greek tragedy.

The Restoration of Nell Gwyn is bawdy, witty, and a lot of fun.

Beatrix Campbell OBE

The Restoration of Nell Gwyn at the York Theatre Royal

One of the best plays of 2014, a gorgeous, raunchy, elegant, filthy, luscious re-interpretation of our national treasure, Nell Gwyn. The 'Protestant Whore' paces, laments, and panics – 'I have a rumpus in my bowels' – at the impending death of Charles II, her lover and patron; Destitution beckons after a lifetime 'applying her genius to delighting the king.' Her crisis is shadowed by her faithful, wry, maidservant Margery, whose own story is a secret narrative of popular but defeated republicanism. She's no whore, but another survivor of bloody tumult whose fate is likewise hoist on the life and death of a patriarch. We see Nell in breeches, a perfect boy, we hear her sing like an angel; Margery dances, empties chamber pots, and delivers both companionship and commentary on revolution, restoration, lust, love, sex, class, power. The play re-visits that paradox - the restoration of old power and the re-invention of popular theatre. This Ensemble production – a joint venture with York Theatre Royal – is a fine vignette of Britain then and now - a mis en scene in which the personal is heroically, hilariously political.

The Guardian

The Restoration of Nell Gwyn at the York Theatre Royal

Trafford's play presents a sensitive reconsideration of a misconstrued figure... Elizabeth Mansfield's caustic, cockney Nell has the manners of a costermonger, but tempers her ambition with a winning sense of self-awareness...

British Theatre Guide

The Restoration of Nell Gwyn at the York Theatre Royal

The text bubbles along engagingly. Trafford's script and the production hit their stride... he clearly has a 'Wilde' side giving his characters innumerable verbal gags, tics and tricks

LivvyLogic Reviews

The Restoration of Nell Gwyn at the York Theatre Royal

...The beauty of the onstage chemistry between the actors... Angela Curran gave a warm and witty performance... Elizabeth Mansfield's classical voice is rich and haunting... A very pacy, enthralling and thought provoking insight into the worlds of two truly fascinating women

York Press

The Restoration of Nell Gwyn at the York Theatre Royal

Mansfield has made a fine career of playing troubled, talented performers, and once more she is a compelling figure on stage... Angela Curran's Margery is an amusing foil, with a sting in the tale... If you love Henry Purcell's songs, then you will delight in Mansfield's singing and Baroque guitar playing... Steve Trafford's new play marks the 350th anniversary of Nell's first appearance on the English stage... Nell Gwyn is very much restored!

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