A pioneering performer
Nell Gwynn was one of the first ever English actresses. Before she joined the King’s Players in the 1660s, all parts in plays – even female ones – were performed by men. And middle-class men at that.
Nell acted at the Drury Lane theatre in Covent Garden while still a teenager. She used the stage name ‘Madame Ellen’.
At the time, any woman on stage created a spectacle, but Nell was especially known for her comic talent. Quite a feat given she could barely read.