nell gwynn

Nell Gwynn is a bawdy restoration romp.  A play with music, song and dance.

Written by Jessica Swale

Directed by Syd Mannion


Auditions:  Saturday August 11th and 18th 

Dolphin Theatre, 12 Spring Street, Onehunga

By appointment

An audition application form is available NOW – see the end of this notice.

The Play:

It is the 1660s. Charles II has restored the monarchy and the theatres. Whilst selling oranges at The Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, Nell catches the eye of Charles Hart, one of the greatest actors of his day. She becomes an actress – one of the very first in English history. This is her story.

Production Dates: 16th Nov – 8th Dec

With the possible exception of the ensemble and the musicians practically every character in Nell Gwynn is an actual historical figure, so you will be able to research plenty of information about these individuals. Details contained here are only as they relate to this production.

The play begins in the 1660s and covers a 25 year period, so the ages suggested are playing ages only. Where possible there may be some doubling of characters.

Two characters speak predominantly in French and Portuguese, other characters to a lesser degree. I am not necessarily looking for fluent speakers in either. You are actors. You aim to convince. Also, those same actors may double up for other characters who are predominantly native English speakers.

Some characters will be required to dance and sing so will need to demonstrate this – details below. Audition pieces and audition packs are available upon request from the director.


Nell Gwynn

The role of Nell is a major and challenging one. She is cheeky and street wise. She is a natural actress who can sing and dance with equal aplomb. Nell is the daughter of a brothel madam, was a whore herself, sold oranges for a living, became a successful actress, was the King’s mistress and latterly the King’s one true love. This actress must sing and dance. Age range 20s - 40s.

Rose Gwynn

Rose is Nell’s elder sister and was no angel herself. She too worked in her mother’s establishment; she married a highwayman and served prison time for theft. Essentially, she has shared the same life experiences as Nell, but Rose currently chooses to remain at home to look after their mother. Rose is Nell’s conscience who helps to keep Nell connected to her roots. Age range 20s - 40s.

Old Ma Gwynn

Nell’s and Rose’s mother. Old Ma Gwynn is a self-made woman. Her husband died in a debtors’ prison and she is proud that she has raised two daughters, run a business and all without the help of a man. She is also, by now, a hopeless alcoholic dependant on her daughters’ support. Her age/look must reflect that she has had a hard life and is an alcoholic.

Queen Catherine

Queen Catherine is King Charles’ Portuguese wife whose dialogue is almost exclusively in Portuguese. By the time of this play she has had three miscarriages and is considered barren. She is understandably upset that her husband has a lot of mistresses and that he flaunts this so provocatively and uncaringly. The age range for this character is 30s – 50s.


Nancy is a member of the Killigrew’s theatre company and is responsible for costumes and maintenance thereof. She is also Nell’s dresser and confidante. What we know, and can also deduce, is that she spent time exiled in France with Killigrew and the English court where she had an affair with Moliere’s dresser. Age range 50s – 60s.

Lady Castlemaine

Formerly known as Barbara Palmer, Lady Castlemaine is Charles’ most ambitious mistress. She clashes both with Queen Catherine whom she deliberately provokes and Nell of whom she is jealous, not to mention the frisson with King Charles II and the friction with Lord Arlington. She was well known for her extravagance, bad temper and generous promiscuity. By the time of this play she had already had five children by the king. Age range 30s – 50s.

Louise de Keroualle

Louise was another of Charles’ mistresses. She was sent to spy for France and is described as being constantly libidinous. She and Nell are antagonists. Louise because she feels superior to the lower classes and likes to put them in their place, and Nell because she doesn’t like being “put in her place”; plus she likes a good fight. Much of Louise’s dialogue is spoken in French, the remainder is in better English than she admits to possessing. Age range 40s – 50s.

King Charles II

Having witnessed the execution of his father Charles I the young Prince Charles fled in exile to France where he remained until the restoration of the monarchy. The King we meet here is very aware that his reign is fragile and he is wary of fulfilling his royal duties in such a way that might anger Parliament; he doesn’t want to end up like his father. Hence he avoids his official duties and obligations as much as he can and throws himself into more hedonistic pastimes. Sex, the theatre and Nell are three of those pastimes. Age range 30 – 40s.

Charles Hart

Charles Hart was the celebrity heartthrob of his day. His father, an actor before him, was flogged by the Puritans for being an actor. Charles himself is now an accomplished, established actor who is usually given the leading roles, often the lover or the hero, in all the plays of the King’s Company. It is he that mentors Nell and introduces her to the Company. As Nell’s real life lover he is hurt when she leaves him and gives up the theatre to be the King’s mistress. The actor playing Hart must sing and dance. Age range 30s. 

Thomas Killigrew

Thomas was a former courtier to both Charles I and Charles II. Upon the restoration he formed The King’s Company opening the Theatre Royal in London’s Drury Lane. He was an actor, manager, director and even writer. Most records reveal he was a very bad manager. He is seen here chiefly as a director and manager trying to weather the ever changing political scene, including the introduction of actor-esses. Age range 50s – 60s. 

Edward Kynaston

Edward was an actor who played all the female roles for The King’s Company, and he is very protective of his domain. He is sceptical of Nell, and even sceptical that a real woman can play a woman on stage as convincingly as he can. He sees theatre more of an art form than a portrayal of realism. He is nonetheless a very sympathetic character and was considered a very good actor. The actor playing Kynaston must sing, dance. Age range 20s – 30s. 

John Dryden

John Dryden is the famous playwright and poet. As we meet John he is at a low point. He feels over-shadowed by his cousin Jonathon Swift, is suffering from writer’s block and initially feels that creating storylines and dialogue for a “real” woman only adds to his problems. Under Nell’s mentoring he blossoms. Age range 30s – 40s.

Lord Arlington

Arlington is Charles II’s advisor. He tries to be the diplomat and statesman that Charles II is not. He spends a lot of his time trying to persuade Charles to perform his royal duties. Although he is an ally to Lady Castlemaine he is also instrumental in introducing Louis de Keroualle with the intention of improving diplomatic relations between Britain and France. Age range 40s – 60s. 

Ned Spiggett

Ned is a young actor in training in the King’s Company. Full of youthful enthusiasm and naivety. The actor playing Ned must sing and dance. Age range late teens through 20s.

The Ensemble

There are up to four ensemble members, ideally two male and two female. These actors will perform various roles throughout the play, some with dialogue, however, their main contribution will be as they sing the many songs, dance to the music and help to move around the scenery a little bit. Age range teens – 30s

The Musicians

At least four musicians will be required. They may perform from both static and mobile positions. Any age considered.

Musician #1 – Guitar            Acoustic classical / baroque

Musician #2 – Recorder        Any in range middle C plus two octaves.

Musician #3 – Violin             Standard range. Might better be described as a fiddle.

Musician #4 – Percussion     Typically snare, bass, triangle, bells, tambourine etc.

Expressions of interest:

·      Click on the form link:

·      Download and save the form to your computer

·      Open the saved form in Adobe Reader

·      Fill in the relevant form fields

·      Click on ‘Submit’ to send your audition form.


In addition you may also email the director at:

To download a printable version of this audition notice click here


Rehearsals will be Sunday, Tuesday and Thursdays evenings.

Rehearsals for choreography, singing and music will be advised but will initially be in addition to those days.