Plays by Jessica Swale

Blue Stockings

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Blue Stockings follows the story of four young women fighting for education and self-determination against the larger backdrop of women’s suffrage written by director and writer, Jessica Swale.

1896. Girton College, Cambridge, the first college in Britain to admit women. The Girton girls study ferociously and match their male peers grade for grade. Yet, when the men graduate, the women leave with nothing but the stigma of being a ‘blue stocking’ – an unnatural, educated woman. They are denied degrees and go home unqualified and unmarriageable.

In Swale’s play, Tess Moffat and her fellow first years are determined to win the right to graduate. But little do they anticipate the hurdles in their way: the distractions of love, the cruelty of the class divide or the strength of the opposition, who will do anything to stop them. The play follows them over one tumultuous academic year, in their fight to change the future of education.

Blue Stockings premiered at Shakespeare’s Globe in London in 2013.

Nell Gwynn

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jessica Swale's Nell Gwynn is a historical drama about the life of the seventeenth-century actress who rose from obscure roots to win the heart of King Charles II. It was first performed at Shakespeare’s Globe, London, on 19 September 2015. The play received its West End premiere at the Apollo Theatre, London, on 12 February 2016 (previews from 4 February), produced by Nica Burns, Eleanor Lloyd Productions and Paula Marie Black. It won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 2016.

The play is set in the 1660s, after the ascension to the throne of Charles II. It begins in the playhouse in Drury Lane, London, where Nell Gwynn is an 'orange hawker' whose quick wit and remarkable beauty soon get her noticed. When she takes to the stage as an actress, she causes merry havoc in a traditionally male world, and soon comes to the attention of the King. But can her charm and spirit protect her from the dangers of the Court?

The premiere at Shakespeare's Globe was directed by Christopher Luscombe and designed by Hugh Durrant, with a cast including Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Nell and David Sturzaker as King Charles II.

The production transferred to the West End with Gemma Arterton taking over the role of Nell.

An earlier version of the play was performed by students at LAMDA, as part of the 2014 Long Project, directed by Raz Shaw.

Picture of Jessica Swale

Jessica Swale is the Artistic Director of Red Handed Theatre Company, and works as a freelance director, writer and practitioner. She trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama, after studying Drama at the University of Exeter. Her debut play, Blue Stockings premiered at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2013.

Jessica has directed a number of award-winning productions and world premieres for Red Handed including The School for Scandal (Park Theatre, 2013); The Rivals (Southwark Playhouse, 2010); Palace of the End (Arcola Theatre, 2010) and the first production of Hannah Cowley’s The Belle’s Stratagem (Southwark Playhouse, 2011) in over one hundred and fifty years, which won her nomination for Best Director at the Evening Standard Awards.

Jessica has worked on new plays in Britain and abroad, having initially worked as Associate Director at Out of Joint with Max Stafford-Clark. Other theatre credits include adapting and directing Sense and Sensibility (Watermill Theatre, 2014) and Nell Leyshon’s Bedlam (Shakespeare’s Globe, 2010), as well as premieres at the Arcola, UK tours for A Single Leaf, and a residency at Theatre Newfoundland, Canada. Jessica has also directed at drama schools, including RADA, LAMDA, Guildhall, Oxford School of Drama and East 15.

Alongside working in the professional theatre, Jessica works regularly in community settings. She is a director of Youth Bridge Global, an international NGO which uses theatre as a tool for promoting social change in war-torn and developing nations. As such she has lived in the Marshall Islands and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, directing Shakespeare productions.

Her books include Drama Games for Classrooms and Workshops, Drama Games for Devising and Drama Games for Rehearsals.