Review Round-Ups

Did Gemma Arterton win over the critics in Nell Gwynn?

The actress was praised for her performance in Jessica Swale’s new play

Matt Trueman, WhatsOnStage


"It's down to Gemma Arterton, taking over the title role from Gugu Mbatha-Raw, to sell such lighthearted, lightweight fare and she does so winningly, with just the right blend of charm and cheek."

"Christopher Luscombe's production catches both the strangeness and the sincerity of the Restoration stage, with demonstrations of how to strike the attitudes or talk with one's fan that are both insightful and amusing."

"Hugh Durrant's luscious designs, his opulent lacey costumes and fuzzy spaniel wigs, push for lavish spectacle, but Swale's play never really convinces you of theatre's necessity. It's fun, albeit over-familiar, but it's featherweight."

Dominic Cavendish, Daily Telegraph


"I think it may be best remembered as the moment that Arterton elbowed her way into the front rank of British actresses. We’ve seen her dazzle in the West End before… but this is the sort of stellar event that sends ripples through the theatrical cosmos."

"Arterton turns what might read like a clump of arid biographical facts into tantalising, palpable flesh. She has vitality, pluck and impishness in spades, and a radiant, angular beauty that’s set off to picturesque effect by her ringletted hair and broad smiles."

"It’s impossible to adulate the whole cast, but mention must be made of Michelle Dotrice, pure comedy as Nell’s dresser, Sasha Waddell as a double-helping of rival mistresses, and Douglas Rintoul as the scheming Lord Arlington."

Michael Billington, The Guardian


"The chief delight lies in watching Arterton, who gives her funniest performance since the movie Tamara Drewe. She deploys a formidable range of moues, pouts and smiles, and has a habit of coyly sucking in her lower lip."

"Swale's play skips lightly over the political and religious conflicts of the period and, in particular, over Charles’s secret adherence to the Roman faith at a time of Anglican dominance. Instead, it is happy to celebrate Nell as an icon of female progress and to give the audience a good time."

"If this one is remembered it will largely be for Arterton, who offers the most generous, and broadest, of Gwynns."

Miriam Gillinson, Time Out


"There’s deliciously hammy acting in this production, plus Charles II’s throbbing English sausage and more sexual innuendoes than you can shake a pointy stick at."

"Hugh Durrant’s chocolate-box set looks a lot like the Bankside theatre, only with more colour, velvet and excess. All the classic Globe trademarks are here: heaps of live music (composed by Nigel Hess), flouncing chorus boys (Greg Haiste is a treat), a scene with a dog(!) and countless sly winks to the audience."

"Arterton is charming as hell but there’s something about the play’s persistent jolliness that slightly grates in the closer confines of the Apollo."

Ann Treneman, The Times


"Every member of this cast is good, if not great. The result is an absolute treat."

"Jessica Swale‘s new play was first performed at Shakespeare’s Globe last year to much acclaim. But it is better here, in a smaller space where we can see the performances up close and personal."

"It’s a bawdy, witty, engaging romp. I can’t imagine who it would offend but, as a package, it lifts you up and puts a smile on your face."

Mark Shenton, The Stage


"Nell Gwynn is a wonderful, warm-hearted and generous piece of theatrical history, performed with just the right amount of affection and affectation. Christopher Luscombe's production mines Swale's writing for every ounce of comedy."

"Every role is superbly performed – there's even a scene-stealing dog. Gemma Arterton, new to the show and replacing Gugu Mbatha-Raw, is ravishing in the title role, and she’s strongly supported by David Sturzaker, as the King."

Nell Gwynn runs at the Apollo Theatre until 30 April.