NINA; Queen of Bohemia

Vanessa Rosenthal's one-woman show opens up the life of the talented but too little appreciated painter, Nina Hamnett (1890-1956) through her typically indiscreet and outrageous ramblings.

Once feted as the most significant female British artist in 1910 Paris, by the 1950s she had squandered her great talent and held court every evening from a tall bar stool in The Wheatsheaf Tavern in Soho. In her hey day she had painted, slept and drank with many of the best and most provocative artistic figures of the early twentieth century in London and Paris. Sickert, Pissaro, Epstein, Roger Fry Picasso and Modigliani were among her friends and lovers. Was she a survivor, a tragic figure or a life force?

The first successful tour in 2018 went to Art Galleries that show her work, usually with the Hamnett painting propped up on an easel besides the set.

A Retrospective Exhibition of Nina Hamnett's work is on show at Charleston House, East Sussex throughout August 2021.

In the early stages of drafting the play Chris Wilkinson was a brilliant dramaturg working with Vanessa Rosenthal over many months and making imaginative and bold suggestions that shaped the whole piece. Sadly his final illness prevented him from directing the play itself. The actress, Jeannie Crowther, took over this role and brought her skill, vast experience and stagecraft to the final production.


NINA : Queen of Bohemia.

An absolutely wonderful performance this morning, which brought Nina's extra-ordinary life alive.

I really did feel as though I was in the pub with her and I caught myself thinking, “She did know Sickert so well… perhaps I can ask her about him after the show.”

Neil Macgregor, Director of the Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery

“Nina – Queen of Bohemia” is an amazing tour-de-force.

It made me laugh throughout – as well as being moving and, finally, tragic.

Nina Hamnett's predicament, and that of all of us, ageing and feeling increasingly that life is passing us by, becomes very real and problematic – and Nina's bravado and determination to carry on gave her enthusiastic audience food for thought.

Ruth Baumberg