The Actress

During the bawdy years of Charles II’s restoration to the throne, one of his more shocking choices was to alleviate the perceived threat to the heterosexuality of female-impersonators by allowing females themselves to play these roles. This vibrant and engaging show tells the story of these actresses: Margaret Hughes and/or Anne Marshall, depending on which academic school one subscribes to.

A splendid romp

This is a bouncy show whose physical and linguistic vigour befits the period and largely creates atmosphere convincingly. But whilst some licence can be allowed as regards the precise theatrical shenanigans of the day, one suspects that Stanislavski might well be allowed more than a little shuffle in the afterlife to learn that scripts were being actioned a couple of centuries before he suggested the idea. There is scope, then, for a little tweakage to rub off a couple of the textual corners, but in the main the plot zips along with all the friskiness of an upper class fop searching for his next piece of petticoat.

Charlotte Price shines as the timid heroine Anne Marshall, and Hattie Chapman offers excellent support as the sharp-talking best friend who – unsurprisingly, considering she steals every scene she is in – turns out to be the most famous of all the periods' female trailblazers: Nell Gwynn.

Entertaining and educational, this is a splendid romp through the earliest days of female dramatic equality.

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Reviews by Rebecca Vines

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The Blurb

1660, London, England. Charles II has returned to the country to take the throne and immediately reopened the theatres. It is a time of debauchery and revelry and speculation is swirling around the city that for the first time a woman will be allowed onto the stage. The Kings company invite two very different women, from very different backgrounds, to join them, but only one can be the first. This new work is created by Long Lane Theatre Company, producers of the critically acclaimed play The Giant Killers.

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