Reviewed by Aimee Smith
Daniel Allen is onto something here – no doubt Lord Nelson would be most disappointed if he were to realise just how little Nelson folks knew about their towns namesake. For instance, his first name is Horatio. I, for one, am glad they named the city after the surname.
The premise of the show is simple. Lord Nelson is here to give Nelson audiences a bit of a lecture on his personal history, so they can better understand why Trafalgar Street is called Trafalgar Street, why Vanguard Street is called Vanguard Street, and why Collingwood Street is called Collingwood Street. And so on and so forth.
The show, however, actually plays out in a far more complex fashion, which helps to build Lord Nelson as a character and creates a more lively theatrical experience than your University style lecture. Roger, the stage manager, pipes in every now and then, pushing Lord Nelson to tell us some of the sticker bits of his personal history. In particular, he’s wanting Lord Nelson to get to the sexy and violent bits – which is a bit off-kilter to the tales of grand accolades and sailing achievements Lord Nelson wants to brag about.
Roger has it right though – we all know the audience is really sitting in eager anticipation to hear the story of how Lord Nelson lost his right arm. Lord Nelson is, understandably, reluctant to go into some of these stories – and surprisingly, it does pull your heartstrings somewhat to hear him go into the darker details. I wasn’t walking into the theatre expecting to empathise with a British Naval hero from the 1700s.
The show hits its most charming moments when Lord Nelson is thrust into 2018. Contemporary music is woven throughout the show, and nothing can quite top watching Lord Nelson demonstrate a Georgian era dance to a top 20 radio banger. Similarly, Lord Nelson’s costume is particularly impressive. He’s decked out in the full admirals hat, breeches, and coat decorated with military honours we commonly associate him with. Of course, as he is here in 2018, we find out it was all purchased at Hallensteins. The pumped up kicks should have been a bit of a give-away.
I was particularly impressed with the clear voice created for Lord Nelson by writer and performer Daniel Allen. Lord Nelson speaks as if he really were an 18th century bloke transplanted onto a modern stage. Nelson natters on about ‘mummery’ in a perfectly plummy accent, demonstrating Allen’s skills as both a writer and a performer.
I look forward to seeing the character develop further and begin to truly ‘captain’ the stage in more performances.
An Evening with Lord Nelson is part of the 2018 Nelson Fringe Festival. To check out other shows and workshops, click here.