Next up in our cast interviews is the young upstart, the gutter girl that went on to become a folk icon – Anna Rose James AKA Nell Gwyn:
Q. What is the play about really?
There is more to the play than is immediately obvious. It is rich and layered, and suggestive of many messages, leaving our whole team to formulate very separate opinions of what it really means.
For me the messages with the loudest voices are the complexity of women’s attitudes of the time, particularly with regard to choice vs fate and the question of one’s control or power, and a very strong feeling of grateful homage by the writer to the real actresses she has chosen to follow in her story.
It is a callback to the origins of a vast chain of movements that opened up doors for women, not excluding the playwrite or the cast, to opportunities we are still expanding on today.
Q. Tell us about your character – Nell Gwyn.
Nell is, at face value, a loveable gobshite, but she’s loveable because there’s more to her than that.
She is innocent but insightful, with her eyes wide open for anyone to see a soul with potential and promise, someone that accepts enlightened wisdoms about the world while remaining pragmatic and opportunist. She chooses to look on the light side and seek happiness.
I say seek, I mean hunt, catch and ride until it gets tired.
Q. Describe the challenges of developing your character?
I am not loud. I don’t sing. The only things I have in common with Nell are a passion for theatre, a Cockney origin and a dayjob in a bar.
Which I guess is a good starting point… I just have to completely wipe my slate and pretend no one in the room knows Anna James, and start afresh with all I know about Nell. Anna James doesn’t matter, because Nell is more important in that alotted time, and ultimately, more fun. The pressure comes in creating someone multi-dimensional enough to be funny on cue, as well as impressive and winning in a long-term sense.
All the research on her urges me to portray a real woman who was remembered with fondness for hundreds of years to come. But before she was known, let alone remembered.
Trying to be loved is pretty much handing yourself over to the wolves from the start, so I’m tackling it by trying to make her believable and accessible, because I think the rest will follow those qualities.
Q. How has researching the historical background of your character helped you?
There is a wealth of information on Nell out there that has certainly informed my perspective of her. Without the element of pure, fearless honesty, it would be even harder to pull off her lines with grace.
True, she barges on through the play with the spontaneity of a loose puppy, but there is something ultimately graceful about the honesty that is always present in her lines and in the famous quotes, such as “Pray good people be civil, I am the Protestant whore.”
This is where I can relate to her as a spirit, as a wit. There is a sense of the transience of life about her, the acceptance of it, that feeds my love for her and my desire to get her right.
Anna Rose James
For more information and tickets to see Playhouse Creatures go to http://www.hedgepigtheatre.co.uk