BOLTON Little Theatre opens its new season next week with Jessica Swale’s riotous comedy Nell Gwynn.

The play follows the life of the famous ­— or perhaps infamous ­— actress and courtesan of the title from her humble beginnings, raised in a brothel in Covent Garden, to the theatres of London and the Kings bedchamber.

Director Sandra Simpson said: "Jessica Swale’s writing is so good, you can tell she loved bringing this tale to life ­— and fortunately I’ve got the cast to do it justice."

The story sees Charles Hart, played by Peter Scofield, decide to train Nell as an actress after being heckled by her on stage with the King’s Company in a newly legitimised London theatre scene.

Newcomer Anna Tomkinson plays Nell.

She said: "She’s an incredibly vivacious part to take on and a ground breaking woman too ­— she was the first woman to act professionally in London ­— up till then female roles had been played by men."

Nell soon catches the eye of King Charles II, himself having always been drawn to the theatre ­— he had passed the laws making acting legal again after years of puritanical rule under Cromwell ­— and the two soon begin an affair, much to the annoyance of his Queen, and his other mistress Lady Castlemaine!

"It’s refreshing to have so many strong female parts in a play,” said Jacqui Brian who plays Lady Castlemaine, "something Jessica Swale has become known for so I’m glad Bolton Little Theatre are staging one of her works."

In fact the society were fortunate to secure the performing right for this relatively new piece, the original production opened in 2015 with a West End run, starring Gemma Arterton as Nell, in 2016 and a touring production only ending last year.

But then bringing contemporary plays to Bolton, as well as the classics, is still very much a Bolton Little Theatre theme

Nell Gwynn runs from September 17 – 22 September, call the box office on 01204 524469 or book on line via the Bolton Little Theatre website .