Bequest to the Nation

Kenneth Branagh copy

Kenneth Branagh


Pick of the Day

“Kenneth Branagh conveyed Nelson’s complexity as a man and managed to sound both classical and modern as an actor. At first I wondered what Nelson had seen in the drunken, volatile, vulgar blacksmith’s daughter, but although Janet McTeer’s performance as Emma Hamilton might have been over the top it was mesmerising nonetheless.

Rattigan ingeniously used Nelson’s baffled young nephew George Matcham (Steven France) to delineate and explain the hatred felt by Nelson and his close family towards the blameless Lady Nelson (Amanda Root), who still loved her husband. Forced to confront the truth, he tells the boy that it’s really guilt that lies behind his refusal even to receive letters from his wife. His love for Hamilton emerges as something quite simple, really —lustful sex of the kind he clearly failed to experience with his wife. Emma knew a thing or two. Although McTeer portrays her as a tiresome, unattractive figure of fun, one mustn’t forget that she had been an artist’s model, much admired for her beauty, painted by George Romney no less, and still only 40 when Nelson died. Without Nelson she slid downhill and died ten years later in poverty. Although she’d been left as ‘a bequest to the nation’ by her lover, the government ignored this unusual request. It was radio drama at its best with a strong cast: Gerard Horan as a no-nonsense Captain Hardy and John Shrapnel as the wily, scheming Lord Minto. The play was made by an independent company, Naxos Audio Books, directed by David Timson and produced by Nicolas Soames.”

– The Spectator