Nell Gwynn and King Charles II in OTG 's Nell Gwynn at Oxford Playhouse

Blushing? It was hard not to. Because as Nell Gwynn took centre stage both at the Oxford Playhouse and in King Charles II’s life, the innuendoes, smutty jokes and double entrendres came thick and fast – hard even.

Having arrived straight from her mother’s brothel, the infamous orange seller had a mouth dirtier than the streets she frequented. And we lapped it up.

Nell Gwynn by OTG at Oxford Playhouse

Welcome to OTG‘s adaption of Jessica Swale’s Nell Gwynn, the dazzling script bringing the tale of Restoration England and all its merrymaking and miscreants to Oxford for the week.

Even so it’s a big old ask, staging Nell Gwynn in such a famous theatre, especially as Oxford Theatre Guild is a non-professional organisation, but the stellar cast carried the baton with great aplomb, under the gregarious eye of director Cate Nunn.

“as far as a fun, informative and merry night out with plenty of Carry On style verve, Nell Gwynn has it all”

From bordellos, theatres, mistresses, music and politics to love, infidelity and death, it was a fascinating and historical march through the aftermath of the execution of Charles I, the killjoy Oliver Cromwell, and the succeeding reign of Charles II.

Nell Gwynn: the many loves of King Charles II

But of course the play itself centres around arguably the most famous mistress of all – Nell Gwynn – spotted by the king on stage, and taken back to the palace where he loved her until he died, admittedly alongside numerous other women, but Nell was the one who really claimed his heart, apparently.

And while Swayle’s script keeps us thoroughly entertained, it’s brilliantly dotted with stark observations and a feminist’s perspective as women are introduced to the theatre for the first time.

Special mention must go to Ian Nutt who plays the spurned actor Edward Kynaston with just the right amount of pantomime dame villainy and humour. Delicious.

Edward Kynaston played by Ian Nutt. pic by Simon Vail

Paul Clifford as Thomas Killigrew the theatre director was also eminently watchable, as was the comic Nancy played by Helen Taylor. Matilda Morrissey as Charles’ French fancy was superb and Clare Denton as his first mistress Lady Castlemaine utterly professional.

Alistair Nunn played King Charles II with the perfect combination of bohemian playmongering, and more thoughtful insight. The weight of his past and future lies heavily on him in Jessica Swales’ interpretation, regardless of the frivolity he was so well known for.

Nell Gwynn by OTG at Oxford Playhouse

As for Layla Katib, playing Nell Gwynn was a huge endeavour and Layla was fearless, cheeky and confident. A joy to watch.

Any criticisms? The set was slightly low-key – easy to understand budget-wise – although the costumes were wonderfully opulent. And we can put the less ebullient musical numbers and slightly faltering pace down to opening night nerves.

But as far as a fun, informative and merry night out with plenty of Carry On style verve, Nell Gwynn has it all.

Nell Gwynn runs at Oxford Playhouse until Saturday March 25.