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.