'Nell' - The Story So Far


"An absolute peach of a part for a young actress."

Restoration Comedy @17thcenturyplay

Production History and Development

The company's inaugural production, written by Laura Ingram, who first encountered Nell’s story when she worked backstage at Drury Lane in the late 1990s, goes back to the very roots of (literally) the role of women in the theatre.

Following successful workshops in Edinburgh in 2014 (in collaboration with Black Dingo Productions and Tightlaced Theatre). The play was very well received and was favourably reviewed by Robert Peacock of Remote Goat.

“Lucy Formby [plays] saucy Nell with humour and relish… Short and fun-packed, much like Nell herself.”

Robert Peacock for Remote Goat

Another workshop presentation followed at the Pleasance Stagespace in London the following January, after which Orange Girl Productions presented “Nell” at Sweet Venues at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August, 2015. (Fringe Listing here)

This production was sponsored by Edinburgh film-making company, Strange Company Ltd, and generously supported by Arts and Business Scotland through their New Arts Sponsorship Award.

Once again, the production was very favourably received, with two four-star reviews (from Fringe Guru and Female Arts, the latter critic also publishing the review under the coveted 'Highly Recommended' label in Fringe Review), and two five-star reviews (from Mumble and The Outlier).

Mark Calvert for Mumble:

“Mesmerising her audience… She held us in the palm of her beautiful hand.”

“Totally captivating”

“Dynamite talent… I have seldom experienced such brilliance.”

Jane Bristow for Fringe Guru:

“A sparkling, frequently funny, and thoroughly bawdy romp.”

“A brave piece with Lucy Formby gamely rising to the challenge.”

“It was hard to resist Nell’s earthy charm and the audience clearly relished the performance.”

“This is no mere tart-with-a-heart piece – she’s got a brain too."

Female Arts and Fringe Review:

“This is a delightful play which will whisk you to the 17th century, entertain you royally and send you on your way with a sweetmeat.”

"An endearing and vivacious character who holds our attention for the hour long show with ease.”

About the Play

“The darling strumpet of the crowd”, nineteen-year old Nell is celebrated for her comic acting, particularly when she gets to dress as a boy to show off her legs. However, Charles Hart, her manager and former lover, keeps casting her in tragic roles to embarrass her in front of her new amour, King Charles II. Nell fears that if she cannot be her sexy, lively self onstage, the King will fall out of love with her off it. So, aided by the audience in the Pit, she concocts a plan to win Hart round and consolidate both her roles as comedienne and courtesan.

“There’s Hart’s and Rowley’s soul she did ensnare,
and made a King a rival to a Player”

From ‘A Panegyrick Upon Nelly’, attributed to John Wilmot, Lord Rochester

Set at a very specific moment - just prior to the Epilogue of the penultimate performance of John Dryden's play, "Tyrannick Love" at Drury Lane in June 1669 – the play opens as Nell’s character, Valeria, has just stabbed herself for unrequited love (much to Nell’s disgust). Not one to die quietly, Nell laments to the audience in the ‘Pit’, debating whether to give up the stage to be more available to the King. On this level, it's about a woman's choices and power - professional and personal - and to what extent she is dependent on others for her livelihood, whichever choices she makes. Mainly, though, it's just good old bawdy fun.

"...the characterisation is excellent and there are some great flourishes of wit"

Robert Peacock for Remote Goat

Cast and Creatives

Nell - Lucy Formby

Producer & Script - Laura Ingram

Director - Andrew Corelli Jones

Choreography - Vicky Swann

Violin (Recorded) - Simon Ingram

Original Direction & Choreography - Jen McGregor

Costumes - Laura Ingram, Lucy Clapson Hinds, Nicola Fishwick

Original Photography - David McFarlane

Additional Artwork - Mental Compost