by Jessica Swale
Directed by Polly Beauwin
Read through: 8 January 2020
Auditions: 15 January 2020
Playing dates: 30 April – 2 May 2020
Not so much a historical play as a romp through theatrical and court life in Restoration England, the play offers a range of parts, both large and small for five actresses (playing seven parts) and seven actors. The play is very much an ensemble piece, especially where those playing members of Killigrew’s’s company of actors are concerned. All those playing the actors will sing, though only Nell sings solo. A slight degree of cacophony in the singing will be acceptable.
There are a few very small parts for servants which will be played by members of the company.
The age ranges are playing ages, and for guidance only.
Nell Gwynn – 20s
Orange seller, actress, star of the stage, royal mistress. Nell is warm, funny, clever, talented and very sexy. She has to dance a simple jig and sing on various occasions, but she is not a trained singer so we will be looking for someone who can carry a tune rather than a trained voice.
Rose Gwynn – 20s
Nell’s younger sister. Rose loves her sister, but is alarmed at her elevation to royal mistress, and remains loyal to their mother, a brothel keeper.
She appears in only six scenes, three of them briefly, so the role would suit an actress who is looking for a less demanding rehearsal schedule.
Nancy – preferably 30s-40s, but would consider someone ten years younger or older
Nell’s dresser and confidante who later finds herself thrust on stage when Nell temporarily abandons it, with catastrophic results.
A part with great comic potential.
Catherine of Braganza/Nell’s Mother – see below for ages
These two parts were combined in the original production, and I have decided to do the same, as each character only appears in one scene, the Queen in Act I, Ma Gwynn in Act II.
Queen Catherine should be 30s-early 40s; Old Ma Gwynn is probably only in her 50s, but has been aged by hardship and drink. Make-up and costume will help the transition, but most of all we will work on body language to achieve the result.
The Queen has one line in English, all the rest will be in Portuguese. A recording will be provided so that you can learn the lines parrot-fashion.
Lady Castlemaine/Louise de Keroualle – 30s-late 40s
Two of Charles II’s many mistresses. Both of them high-born, Lady Castlemaine English, Louise French (with several lines in French). Grand and very sophisticated, they must be able to carry off their roles and costumes with style.
Both of them were painted by Sir Peter Lely, who managed to make most of Charles’s mistresses look remarkably similar, so I will combine these two very self-contained parts for one actress.
Charles II – 30s-early 40s
King of England, the “Merry Monarch”. He enjoys life to the full, he loves his dogs, the theatre … and women. Underneath is a very intelligent man, capable of bringing his country together again after the divisiveness and horrors of the Civil War.
Physically a big man – tall, broad shouldered, a dominating presence.
Charles Hart – mid-30s-40s
The leading actor in Thomas Killigrew’s company and the most popular actor of his day. He discovers Nell’s talent, trains her, falls in love with her, becomes her lover and finally loses her to the King, while continuing to work with her.
Thomas Killigrew – 40s-60s
Actor-manager of what would become the King’s Company. A sensible, capable man who runs his troupe of actors with a firm but not unkind hand through the vicissitudes of competition from other companies, theatrical tantrums and playwrights who can’t quite get the play finished.
Edward Kynaston – 20s-40ish
Actor in Killigrew’s company specializing in playing women’s parts. His nose is seriously put out of joint by the arrival of women on stage, thus depriving him of his best parts. He is often outrageously, and loudly, theatrical, perhaps just a little bit camp.
Great comic potential. Physically, he should look as though he could pass as Juliet or Desdemona when wearing a wig and a dress.
John Dryden – 30s-early 40s
Playwright and later Poet Laureate. Writes plays for Killigrew’s company, but sometimes suffers badly from writer’s block. He is somewhat grander than the other members of Killigrew’s company, but nevertheless one of them.
Lord Arlington – 30s-50s
Charles II’s advisor, who attempts (unsuccessfully) to keep him on the straight and narrow of suitable behavior in a monarch. Slightly pompous at times, but still likeable. Slightly older than Charles. Some dialogue in Portuguese when speaking with the Queen – again, a recording of the Portuguese will be provided for this actor to learn the lines.
Ned Spiggett – 20s-30s
A young-ish actor in Killigrew’s company, still learning the ropes. His learning curve is rather bumpy, giving the actor playing this part good scope for comic improvisation.
If you have any questions, please email Polly – firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would be interested in directing a future production, get in touch with the committee by emailing email@example.com