Naked Ambition

Lucky Fin Productions

Lichfield Garrick Studio


THIS is the final part of Rachael Pennell’s Georgian trilogy which started in revolutionary France with Chocolateria Hysteria, drifted among the actors at Drury Lane Theatre in Acting on Instinct and finally moved backstage with Naked Ambition.

The ambition comes in the shape of Lizzie, (played by writer and director Rachael Pennell) dresser to the famous actress Mrs Robinson. She sees more to life than looking after actresses and wants to go upon the stage herself.

Her friend Emma, (played sympathetically by Carrie Hill) would be happy with just a job in the theatre.

Eventually though both find positions which are, should we say, horizontal, as both end up on the game progressing to long term mistresses with Emma in particular handed around before sent off out of the way of his impending marriage by her latest protector, Charles Greville as a sort of present to Uncle William in Naples, Sir Charles Hamilton, the British Envoy.

Elizabeth Armistead eventually married one of her clients the politician Charles Fox while Emma progressed from mistress to wife of Sir William, becoming Lady Hamilton the future mistress of Lord Nelson.

Lizzie died a wealthy woman with a state pension while Emma died an alcoholic in penury in France.


In Pennell’s play we follow the women’s progress, with all the men played by Jonathan Greaves and Robert Joyce, through the eyes of the ghost of Charlotte Charke, (Hannah Mason) a notorious actress and transvestite of dubious sexuality and Annie Talbot.

Charke, who died aged 47, had set up the first puppet theatre which was hardly designed for children.  The Lord Chancellor was given the power of censorship over the theatre in 1737 and puppets were a way round his rather puritanical view of all things thespian.

Talbot, (Louise Sweeney) served five years in the Royal Navy disguised as a man and became known as Powder Monkey Annie.

Tying in the two parallel true life stories of  Lizzie and Emma, which are both colourful and complicated is a daunting task and much had to be missed out by necessity but there is enough there to get the flavour of the story.

The second act, when the scene has been set, is clearer to follow although the production would be helped by an injection of pace.

The play is a collection of short scenes and perhaps running one into the other without what are sometimes long pauses in-between would give the action more momentum.

Roger Clarke 


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