Playhouse Creatures, Sewell Barn

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Another drama of life back stage, seen this time from the women's angle, exploring the moment in Charles II's reign when, for reasons which are not entirely artistic, actresses were at last permitted to perform in the public theatres.

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

Another drama of life back stage, seen this time from the women's angle, exploring the moment in Charles II's reign when, for reasons which are not entirely artistic, actresses were at last permitted to perform in the public theatres.

The tone of April De Angelis' play is at once rambunctious and tender, emotionally charged and dramatically evocative, foul-mouthed as well as eloquent.

There is tension in Robert Little's production, between Oonaugh Fox as a queenly Mrs Betterton and Louise Brighton who threatens to upset the orange basket as Nell Gwyn as well as between the performers and the social, economic and sexual forces that thwart their ambitions by fixing their true life roles. Rosemary Morgan, Ayshea Christian and Ruth Bennett complete a strong, uninhibited cast.

A feature of the play is the technique borrowed from cinema and TV of not ending scenes formally but cutting them off short and hurrying on to the next. The effect is spoiled when performers are seen picking their way off the cramped Sewell Barn stage in the three-quarters dark.