Phyllis’s Write-up of “Nell’s Belles”

Warm thanks once again from all at WADS to Phyllis for her kind words; (see also first few photos in Past Shows section)


Nell’s Belles by Kjartan Poskitt was a challenge to which the WADS responded with verve and versatility. This fast-moving, zany, bawdy burlesque on the romance between Charles ll and NellGwynn was tackled with enthusiasm and enjoyment by a cast of 18 playing 28 disparate characters through 18 scenes.

The minimalist, adaptable set and the sumptuous costumes reflected the sub-title, The Swinging Sixteen- Sixties Show – but in a 1960s idiom – and to add to the confusion Queen Catherine was a dead ringer for our present queen.

Julian Thomas excelled in his interpretation of Charles ll as a nasal, laidback hippy whose plan to stage his own Woodstock, featuring Nell and her friends from the local bawdy house was scuppered when one of the ‘belles’ was stricken by the plague. Julian Howell~Jones was the perfect foil as his waspish, straitlaced brother and would-be usurper. He accuses Charles of accidentally starting the Great Fire during a romantic tryst. Stacey ‘Hall, a spunky Nell Gwynn revelled in her role as did the whole company which once again demonstrated its flexibility and acting expertise. Madeline Howell-Jones was particularly memorable in three very diverse characterisations – Nell’s coarse mother, the earthy Mrs Chiffinch, Keeper of the Privy and Hortense the beautiful courtesan.

Twenty-three years of history flashed by in short, fast and frequent scenes of intrigue, philandering and politicking, all held together by Charlie’s charladies, supervised by the droll, authoritarian Irene played by Christine O’Reilly. The bawdy twists and turns were interspersed with rousing songs sung by gusto by Nell and the cast accompanied by the Musical Director, Alan Barraclough on piano and drummer George Ciarege.

This Pythonesque production could well have been subtitled ‘And Now for Something Different‘. It certainly surprised, delighted and titillated a receptive and appreciative audience. Neil Kitson, producer, the large backstage crew and the cast are to be congratulated on an evening of humour, sparkling entertainment and warmth at the end of a long dreary winter.

2013 Phyllis Hayhurst


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