Playhouse Creatures Theatre Review

  • Review of Bawds Playhouse Creatures, ADC Theatre, Cambridge
  • Photos courtesy of D Stuart Photography
    Nell Gwyn was amongst the most famous of the restoration period actresses. Played here by Becky Gilbert.
    Nell Gwyn was amongst the most famous of the restoration period actresses. Played here by Becky Gilbert.


    To meet Chris Hudson, director of Bawds’ Playhouse Creatures, you meet a softly spoken, understated chap. The mental gymnastics required to see the link between the quiet wrestling geek in front of you and the person who could drive a schizophrenically emotional roller coaster such as tonight’s show are no mean feat.

    It is a rare thing to be belly-laughing one second at a raucous bawdy play on words and then seconds later to be moved to tears by a level of emotion and impact that takes you aback on a visceral, instinctive level. Set in 17th century London, Playhouse Creatures deals with the first actresses working after Charles II altered the law to allow women on stage.

    The clever relationship between the fictional actresses and audience and the real-life actresses and audience is a charm of the script but making it work as something other than breaking the 4th wall with a knowing wink is a credit to the ladies and gents involved in the production. The revolving set to transport us in and out of the backstage area gives a sense of professionalism in the production and also gives the audience a large-print cue as to what section of these people’s lives we are watching. The voyeurism of their highs and lows mirrored between the script attendees and the real ones was something to make you keep coming back, and I am sure this show will stay with me for some time.

    The cast is excellent without exception, with Becky Gilbert’s enchanting portrayal of folk heroine Nell Gwynn effervescently taking us from rags to…well, almost… you’ll have to watch the show. Other highlights are an amazingly powerful Sarah Ingram playing the actress within the actress flirting with Lady Macbeth’s madness and one of the first tastes of the darker impact behind the play comes from a passionate Helen Holgate. It’s a nightmarish task to pick highlights, as the whole cast was splendid, and the level of support from an excellent crew backstage and an inspired set was apparent even to us plebs in the cheap seats.

    These ladies and gentlemen have done wonders with their parts (cheap laugh, cheers.), contributing to an extremely enrapturing whole (cheap laugh, cheers.) and at the same time have shown us the best and worst of the arts and the audience. Very powerful, very evocative, riotous good fun. There’s nothing am about this amdram. You’d be bonkers to miss it.

    Tickets are available from the ADC Theatre website.

    Alex Page is a freelancer and unionist, and bank person and cross-dressing stage extra and soon-to-be-dad and wannabe standup from Cambridge, UK. See him write stuff and say stuff at, see him say stuff he’s been told to say onstage from 23rd – 26th July at the Corpus Christi Playrooms in Cambridge for Breakanegg Theatre.