Review from YourHarlow:
THIS reporter has been reviewing Harlow Theatre Company for close to ten years. We have always considered them such a class act in local theatre. Don’t take the term amateur literally. They are the consummate professionals.
So it comes as no surprise that their production of Jessica Swale’s Nell Gwynn was, well, what can we say, perfect.
From the moment, you step into the Victoria Hall Theatre, you are greeted by members of the cast. Even the man at the Box Office was a noble lord!
The story follows the rise of an unlikely heroine from London’s streets to Britain’s most celebrated acts, with a hard-won place in the heart of the King (Charles ll).
Nell is played by Pamela Self-Pierson. It would be very easy for Pamela to grandstand in this role but that is not what HTC are about. It would be easy to go all Pygmalion or Pretty Woman but instead it is an unfussy and beautifully stated performance. By doing that, it allows the ensemble nature of the performance to stand out. For this is a theatre company and we go to see and love the company and all its members.
Likewise, Clive Weatherley’s King Charles is also a subtle but excellent performance. Yes, he is a philanderer and a merry monarch indeed. But he also saw his father (Charles 1) executed and lived in exile. He also has to struggle with political intrigue and religious controversy. These issues are also woven seamlessly into the script.
Sitting, writing this review and looking at the cast of players, they all brought a huge amount to the performance. We really enjoyed Dan Rickett’s Edward Kynaston. His character came across as combination of Blackadder’s King George and Dustin Hoffman’s Tootsie. He was wonderful.
There were just some performers who stole scenes, probably without even noticing. Nancy played by Melissa Richards was one of them.
Others had solid roles and put in excellent performances. Doug Thomas as Charles Hart, Simon Mawdsley as Thomas Killigrew, Carrie Lee Stevens as Rose Gwynn.
Paul Johnson was an intense Macchiavellian character as Lord Arlington and Paul Stephenson’s John Dryden was also amiably bumbling. Paul also composed the original music.
But this play would have been nothing without the direction by Jane Miles and her production team.
This was paced beautifully but also wonderfully lit and staged. From the King’s royal box, the dressing room to the lighting for the two young actors who introduced each scene.
Costume was so important. From the maids in brown to the Frenchy costume.
There was also a few great musical numbers. One of which was Nell does Britney!
There was also use of the audience as an audience but also as Parliament.
We would highly recommend you getting down to Victoria Hall Theatre to see Nell Gwynn.
Yes, we must support local theatre or look at it another way: Go and see over two hours of great theatre superbly acted. Please don’t let local theatre starve!
Nell Gwynn - Pam Self-Pierson
Rose Gwynn - Carrie Stevens
Ma Gwynn - Joce Johnson
Charles Hart - Doug Thomas
Thomas Killigrew - Simon Mawdsley
Edward Kynaston - Dan Ricketts
Nancy Oldfield - Melissa Richards
John Dryden - Paul Stephenson
Ned Spiggett - Isaac Woods
King Charles II - Clive Weatherley
Lord Arlington - Paul Johnson
Lady Castlemaine - Helga Kilroy
Queen Catherine - Vanessa Woods
Louise de Kerouaille - Wendy Eveson
Roach - Polly Johnson
Reefah - Aston Woods
Chorus - Jess Ricketts
Director - Barry Bowen and Jane Miles
Musical Direction - Paul Stephenson
Choreography - Joce Johnson and Jess Ricketts
Lighting and Sound Design - Tom Richards
Costume Design - Jocelyn Johnson
Wardrobe Team - Jess Ricketts and Sue Koolen
Stage Manager - Sam Stevens
Set Design and Realisation - Paul Johnson, Brett Stevens,
Stephen Dove, Melissa Richards, Jess Ricketts, Dan Ricketts, Sophie Clayson, Anthony Oborne, Keith Mardell
Props - Barry Bowen
ASM - Eve Dunkin
Dressers - Lisa McDonald, Katherine Wood, Maria Hughes
Lighting Operator - Claire Klyn
Sound Operator - Tom Richards
Publicity - Mel Richards and Carrie Stevens
Publicity Design - Paul Johnson
Acknowledgements: We would like to thank our sponsors for their support throughout 2022.