by Jessica Swale
2021 - Purdue University Mainstage
Nell Gwynn is a perfect production to highlight the power of theatre as a unique form of art that relies on the relationship between audience and theatricality. At the heart of this relationship is the theatrical event. It is about seeing and being seen, embodied performativity, experiencing in the moment, and immersing oneself in a fiction to a point one feels they have become part of it. Restoration audiences knew that their own theatrical performances in the audience was just as crucial to the event as the performance and spectacle seen on the boards. They also knew theatricality it is about letting go of any expectations that the theatre is a place to replicate daily realities. It is for bending reality, showing us the best and worst of humanity through heightened language, action, spectacle, and tense situations ratcheted up to two-hundred percent. It is also about self-referentially acknowledging itself as unique. It has the ability to look at itself and laugh, to not take itself so seriously. It is in this same vein of Swale’s own efforts to “sketch around the bones of the known facts” to theatricalize the history of Eleanor Gwynn and the practices of the Restoration stage that we approached the production of Nell Gwynn. We aimed to highlight the unique abilities of theatre to be more than life, to be a place where we can look past the mundane and grim realities of our daily drudgery, to embrace the theatrical, the fictional, the fantasy of telling a story about historical people and historical events but through a contemporary lens full of awe, joy, and revelry.
Though our event will be witnessed through the small lens of the camera and delivered over digital channels only allowing you a limited view into our world we hope you will embrace the theatricality of the event and come along for the ride.