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Two Lady Hamiltons... but they need a Nelson



Jermyn Street Theatre, London

Until October 7, 1hr 45mins


The Father And The Assassin

Olivier Theatre, London Until October 14, 2hrs 35mins


Mother and daughter Caroline Quentin and Rose Quentin last teamed up on stage in 2022’s Mrs Warren’s Profession, about a respectable prostitute and her daughter. Now they are at it again in Infamous, the story of Lady Hamilton, the poverty-born model and dancer who married a diplomat and scandalised society by having an affair (and a baby) with Admiral Lord Nelson.

Rose is young Emma Hamilton, a ravishing young schemer married to a rich old bore in Naples. She is nasty to her mother (played by Caroline) as she plots to seduce Nelson when he arrives in the harbour. Her mum in turn constantly reminds her daughter of her gutter origins.

In the second half, it is 1815: Nelson is dead and the older Emma is – in a neat twist – now played by Caroline. She is penniless, drunken, and living in a cowshed in Calais with her grown-up daughter Horatia – Rose playing Nelson’s prim, unacknowledged offspring.

The moral of this? England expects every woman to keep her trap shut. April De Angelis’s often funny play has pathos and the easy mother and daughter duo pays off nicely. But it’s all a wee bit unambitious. It needs another act. Maybe with Nelson in lover mode.

The Father And The Assassin by Anupama Chandrasekhar returns to the National, now starring Hiran Abeysekera – brilliant in Life Of Pi – as Nathuram Godse, the ultra-nationalist Hindu who in 1948 shot the 78-year-old Mahatma Gandhi, for which he was hanged.

Godse, who talks to the audience from the grave, is a chatterbox. He puts the boot into Ben Kingsley in the film Gandhi – ‘that fawning Attenborough film’. He doesn’t, sadly, cite Alf Garnett’s immortal line about the hunger-striking Mahatma: ‘Bloody Gandhi… wouldn’t eat his dinner so they gave him India.’

The play is more of a history lesson than drama, but it works. Godse’s parents brought him up as a girl, the true source of this little guy’s resentments. Paul Bazely’s wily Gandhi provides an antidote to Kingsley’s palms-together spirituality. The evening features the leaders Jinnah, Nehru and the sinister Vinayak Savarkar, Godse’s political svengali. There are no Brits, though the moronic Mountbatten is rightly condemned for the slaughter and bungling of Partition.

Staged with great style by Indhu Rubasingham, the epic sweep of modern Indian history is acted out (with witty, relevant commentary) by an excellent company. Never dull, often thrilling.





dmg media (UK)