Entertainment & Arts

Gemma Arterton to play Nell Gwynn in London's West End

Gemma Arterton Image copyright Simon Turtle
Image caption Gemma Arterton will tell the rags-to-riches story of the actress and royal mistress of King Charles II's court

Gemma Arterton will take the lead role in Nell Gwynn when the critically acclaimed new play by Jessica Swale transfers to the West End.

The production has been playing at London's Shakespeare's Globe but will move to the Apollo in February.

The play charts the rise of the 17th-Century actress from the slums to the stage - and into the heart of the king.

Arterton, best known for screen work, has proved herself in plays such as the Globe's The Duchess of Malfi.

Most recently, Arterton starred as Rita O'Grady in the West End musical Made in Dagenham, for which she won the Evening Standard best newcomer in a musical award.

Her other theatre credits include The Little Dog Laughed, The Master Builder and Love's Labour's Lost, again at the Globe.

She takes over the Nell Gwynn role from Gugu Mbatha-Raw whose Globe performance earned her a best actress nomination at the Evening Standard awards.

'Blissfully entertaining'

Image copyright Film Publicity
Image caption Gemma Arterton's role as Gemma Bovery is a romantic comedy adapted from Posy Simmons's comic strip of the same name

On screen, Arterton most recently starred in the romantic comedy Gemma Bovery, in which she plays a young bride who becomes the fixation of the male residents when she and her husband try to establish themselves in a rural French village.

Prior to that, Arterton made her name in the 2007 St Trinian's movie, for which she won Empire and National Movie Awards.

She went on to become a Bond girl in Daniel Craig's second outing as 007 in Quantum of Solace.

She has since starred in The Boat that Rocked and as Thomas Hardy's tragic heroine Tess of the D'Ubervilles in a BBC drama TV adaptation.

The story of the real-life Nell Gwynn is one of an unlikely heroine who pulled herself up from her impoverished roots in London's Coal Yard Alley to become Britain's most celebrated actress, and the mistress of King Charles II.

Jessica Swale's story has been described as "blissfully entertaining" by the Globe and focuses on how Nell has to keep her wits about her and play to her charms in order to survive at Court at a time when women were seen as second-class citizens.

Swale directed playwright Nell Leyshon's Bedlam at The Globe in 2010, while her first play, Blue Stockings, was performed in 2013.

The Globe theatre has a tradition of championing new writing and seeing works that began life on its stage make successful transfers to the West End.

It most recently saw Farinelli and the King starring Mark Rylance make such a move, to great critical acclaim.

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