Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings


Hannah Tolley as Nell and Stuart Wishart as Charles II

Nell Gwynn

The Nonentities

The Rose Theatre, Kidderminster


The Nonentities have assembled perhaps one of the largest casts for some time, for their current production of Nell Gwynn. The play written by Jessica Swale is no small undertaking both in its scale and ambition but gives ample opportunity for many of the cast to shine.

Swale's play centres on the significant historical importance of a 17th century woman called Nell Gwynn. It is said that she rose from humble beginnings and a dubious background, to become one of the most beloved actresses and mistresses of King Charles II. Gwynn's charm, quick wit, and natural talent captured the hearts of both the public and the king, making her a prominent figure in Restoration England.

The play presents certain challenges for any independent company to produce but those seem to have been met and overcome within this current production. Swale's play is crafted in the manner of a traditional Shakespeare work. Added to it though are subtle modern references such the film Titanic that add humour to what is essentially a detailed account of Gwynne’s life.


Faye Bingham as a bitchy Lady Castlemaine with Charles II

It’s also Shakespearean in both its costumes and staging and travels from a humble theatre setting to the grandeur of the Kings palace. It also has a considerable amount of musical content and whilst Director Jen Eglington admits that this is not really the company’s forte, the interludes were equally as enjoyable as the drama. She also states that there is seven decades of Nonentities performers present in the production.

On that note it’s been a pleasure to see so many productions and watch supporting players grow in confidence and into lead roles. This is clearly evident in Hannah Tolley who takes on and commands the formidable central role of Gwynne herself.  Long-time performer Richard Taylor gives a spirited performance as Edward Kynaston ousted by Gwynne as one of the first female performers in the company. 

Stuart Wishart adds swagger and flair to his portrayal of King Charles although I couldn’t quite get over his potential to play Captain Hook in his Royal finery, moustache and long wig.

A relatively new company player Beth Dalton had several moments to show how capable a performer she is in the role of Rose and looks to be a great asset to the company, as she added true weight to her performance. Tracey Man and Louise Fullwell in the royal roles as Catherine and Madame Kerouaille were delivered in Spanish and French something of a feat in itself. Faye Bingham was the bitchy Lady Castlemaine with Bhupinder Brown as Nancy, Nell’s over enthusiastic friend and assistant.

There was great support as always by Bob Graham as the frustrated Theatre owner Killigrew and Tony Newbould as Charles Hart, the man whose love of Nell tempts her into to the theatrical limelight. David Wilkes played the writer Dryden and for this production has written some fine original music that was played live

Nell Gwynne effortlessly blends humour, romance and music into this historical tale. Transporting the audience back to the 17th-century and complete with its bawdy wit, exceptional costumes, and authentic props, The Nonentities' have created an immersive and fully entertaining experience. To 17-06-23.

Jeff Grant


The Nonentites

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