Accomplished British actress Gemma Arterton will take on the title role of Jessica Swale’s Nell Gwynn when the critically-acclaimed new play comes to the West End next February. The production charts the rise of the 17th Century actress as she travels from the slums to the stage and into the heart of King Charles II.

Gemma ArtertonGemma Arterton is extending her theatre credits as Nell Gwynn

The real-life Nell was a long-time mistress of the King and has become wildly regarded as a living embodiment of Restoration England and her rags-to-riches story - charted in the play – has led her to become considered as somewhat of a folk heroine.

Arterton is best known for her work on the screen but has also proved herself on the stage after appearing in plays including The Globe’s The Duchess of Malfi. Most recently, she played Rita O’Grady in Made in Dagenham for which she won an Evening Standard best newcomer musical award.

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Nell Gwynn has been playing at London’s Shakespeare’s Globe but will move to the Apollo next year.

Arterton will take over the titular role from Gugu Mbatha-Raw who earned a best actress nomination at the Evening Standard awards for her turn at the Globe performance.

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Jessica Swale's story has been described as "blissfully entertaining" by the Globe and focuses on how Nell has to keep her wits about her in order to survive at Court at a time when women were seen by many as second-class citizens.