The show had its international premiere at the GMT International Theatre Festival, Adelaide.
Its UK premiere was at the Spring Arts Centre in Havant.
It has toured the UK, played the Kansas City Invasion Festival and has played in the theatre space in the hold the world-famous Cutty Sark.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Inspirational hero – flawed maverick. Tactical genius. Rebel.
Amidst the shot, smoke and din of battle, a surgeon, a midshipman, a gunner and a powder monkey aboard HMS Victory strive to destroy the Combined Fleet of France and Spain. Their fate –and that of their country – lies in the hands of one man – Horatio Nelson.
For two hundred years, Vice Admiral, the Right Honourable, the Viscount Nelson KB, has stood patiently on his column in Trafalgar Square, watching the world and its many changes, good – and bad.
But what happened to the “tars” who served with him? Through their eyes we find out what it was really like at Trafalgar; and in Nelson’s own words, the hero – and the rebel, then – and now. Below the column in Trafalgar Square, a homeless Falklands veteran shivers in the cold…
Robert Trussell in the Kansas City Star:
History is less a seamless narrative than a series of impressions that may or may not conform to established facts, which creates wonderful opportunities for writers and performers.
That was the take-away from the opening night Wednesday of the Invasion, Kansas City’s annual festival of solo and two-actor shows, in which three gifted British actors performed one-person plays about disparate but memorable figures.
In “Nelson — The Sailor’s Story,” actor/writer Nicholas Collett offers a fascinating portrait of Horatio Nelson, the celebrated admiral who defeated the French and Spanish navies in a series of encounters during the Napoleonic Wars before losing his life to a French sharpshooter at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
Collett’s piece imagines the statue of the great naval commander atop Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square coming life to recount a bit of his personal history and toss off amusing observations about the pigeons who perch on his effigy, ridicule-worthy French tourists and other subjects. Collett is an unfussy actor who values economy over flamboyance, and he remains focused on the task at hand: telling a compelling story.
The depth of research is impressive as Collett shifts the point of view among multiple characters, including a ship’s gunner, his young powder monkey, a ship’s surgeon and a homeless veteran seeking shelter against the snow on New Year’s Eve in Trafalgar Square.
A political theme emerges: The military rank-and-file who do the lion’s share of fighting and dying are rarely rewarded for their service and sacrifice. By carefully integrating material from letters, diaries and other sources, Collett paints a vivid picture of the horrors of naval combat faced by men and boys in the 18th century. Nelson, a man who led bravely and never asked his men to do anything he wouldn’t, is an inspirational figure.
Collett’s performance is by turns highly amusing, sobering and poignant. Nelson emerges as a man who achieved greatness by following unconventional instincts. It made him a singular commander and unique figure.
This is the show’s American debut.
Deborah Hirsch in the Kansas City Pitch Magazine:
Going in, I knew little about British war hero Horatio Nelson, chronicled here in Nelson: A Sailor’s Story. But the audience’s ignorance seems to be one of the points of this humorous and affecting solo piece. The 18th-century admiral, a statue in London’s Trafalgar Square, comes to life and begins his story, brushing away pigeons and watching the goings-on of people beneath his gaze in present-day London. This hourlong play engages on many levels, thanks to a fine script and the excellent Nicholas Collett, who not only enacts the central character but also portrays multiple roles — in action scenes on a warship (including squirm-worthy rudimentary surgery) and in the reflections and thoughts on Nelson’s life. I’ll never view a historical statue — or the average recruit — in quite the same way.