I See No Ships......Or Do I?

Nelson,The Sailors’ Story

Walker Theatre

24/May/2016

 

If you have ever wondered what makes a good one man show one suggests you should head off to catch Nicholas Collett’s exemplary lesson in delivering one.

Nelson, The Sailors’ Story is a witty, observational, accurate and compelling tale of how England found its way into the forefront of French hating and empire building.

Based on the plinth of Nelson’s column, Trafalgar Square and on board the Victory itself, we watched as our greatest Sea Lord sailed his way into history and on into his own tragic demise.

Brilliantly weaving modern day issues with historical fact the show starts with Nelson looking down on a 21st century Trafalgar Square it’s New Year’s Eve 2015. At the bottom of the column is Steve the homeless man, who sleeps in a cardboard box suffering nightly the actions of a cruel society that doesn’t give a hoot about him. What is leaked into the show slowly is that Steve served in the Falklands.

Collett then points out the cruellest of ironies. That although Nelson was given a column all to himself, so that all the world can see him; he would have just rather had his mistress Emma Hamilton and his daughter Horatia cared and provided for after his death. They weren’t and in fact Emma died in poverty in France hiding from her creditors. It transpired that the men of the Victory didn’t fare much better. Instead after giving their all, their lives and their limbs; the glory went to the officers.

Juxta posing Steve the modern face of this travesty with Nelson’s men, brilliantly proved that in 200 years of history not much has changed. History is itself cyclical.

Naturally that in itself is a hot topic for discussion but it can wait for another day. Instead we shall focus on the play itself.

This is a highly charged one man triumph. Almost like the ship the action was set on, this was Collett’s own Victory. Changing seamlessly into the characters that were telling the story, Steve the homeless, Mr. Beattie the ship’s surgeon even a little twelve year old powder monkey; all of them beautifully portrayed as the action moved forward at a pleasing pace.

He played each part so well one found oneself wondering if there was room in the dressing room for all of them.

Mr. Collett is one extremely watchable performer. The audience sat spell bound and easily made the leaps from warship, to a New Year’s party in the square below, to Steve in his Cardboard box shivering against the snow. As a point of fact, wherever the actor led the audience they would willingly and believingly go with him. To say they were eating out of his hand would be overegging the cake a little, just suffices to say they almost were. He is an incredibly charismatic star.

Nelson, The Sailor’s Story is without doubt one of the cleverest one man shows around, currently. The writing was so smooth, so creative and so clever. The show itself was beautifully devised. The timing was stunning. The show relied on a synchronised soundtrack. That is fine when it's just the wind in the rigging. But when you introduce sound cues like sword fighting or gunfire, the actor has to be on his metal to hit every cue. One is not aware of a single cue being missed or arrived at too early or too late.

Inventive, witty and poignant. This is the one man show to catch right now. The betting is that even if Bonaparte himself saw the show he would have to admit albeit begrudgingly, that it is tres, tres bon!

This is a Five Star Review

Owen J. Lewis

Section:

Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

Read More from Owen Lewis