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  • Writer's pictureNeill Kovacic-Clarke


🎭 Pretty, Witty Nell

📍 Barons Court Theatre, 28a Comeragh Road, London, W14 9HR

🗓 Friday 21st July 2023



Last night I was invited by Ryan J-W Smith to see his production of Pretty, Witty Nell which is currently playing at Barons Court Theatre and is produced by his company Rogue Shakespeare.

I really didn't know what to expect from this one-woman show and as I entered the space, actor Hannah Attfield was there and conversing with audience members. This seems to be a recent trend with one-person shows, but what was different here is that Attfield was herself and not in character. This immediately broke the fourth wall and let the audience know that this would be the style of the performance and you would be directly looked at and spoken to throughout.

Pretty, Witty Nell tells the story of Nell Gwyn, one of the first actresses on the English stage and long-term mistress of King Charles II of England. A celebrity in her own right, Gwyn was praised by Samuel Pepys for her comic performances.

Attfield transitions into the role of Nell seamlessly and offers a gentleman in the audience some 'juicy samples' before looking at me and proclaiming "Come meet me after, sir - I'll be discreet!"

Smith's writing is exquisite. It's clever and funny in equal measures and the whole play is written entirely in rhyming iambic pentameter. Of course the rhythm and rhyme were present throughout but they did not take over the piece and at times you barely noticed it was there. This is a credit to both writer and performer.

Although obviously written and presented in a Shakespearean style, this piece is accessible to all audiences. You don't need to be a fan of Shakespeare to enjoy this play! There are elements of other influences littered throughout and personally I was reminded of things such as Monty Python at certain points. When Nell said certain lines such as "They did not have the money" I was reminded of the character Moira Rose from Schitts Creek!

Attfield was phenomenal in this piece. It was almost like it had been written especially for her! She was commanding and engaging from the start and kept the audience on her side throughout. She was sexy but also vulnerable and showed real emotion. Barons Court Theatre is an intimate space and she really drew you into her story.

I loved the way she would throw on a wig or a jacket when she was representing another character and the way she transitioned between two characters using just a hand-held fan was sublime. When someone's phone went off she acknowledged it, made a joke and moved on.

Simply put, this play is a work of genius. Genius writing, genius direction and genius casting.

Filled with cheeky innuendo, great jokes, recognisable characters and a lot of heart Pretty, WItty Nell only has two performances left at Barons Court Theatre. Head to to book tickets now. You won't be disappointed.

For more information on Smith and Rogue Shakespeare then head to where you can find lots of information and there's also a link to a shop where you can purchase a new book of 3 plays for Shakespeare lovers - and haters! This book includes Pretty, WItty Nell.

I really had a great time watching this show and I highly recommend it. I am now interested to learn more about the company and would love to see more works from them in the future.

Neill Kovacic-Clarke

All views are my own and I pride myself on being open and honest.

My tickets for this performance were gifted by Ryan J-W Smith who invited me to watch the show and to give my honest review. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in the star rating given or the content of my review.

Acted by: Hannah Atfield

Written and directed by: Ryan J-W Smith

Running time (approx): 55 minutes


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