Infamous ★★★ Jermyn Street Theatre | Sep 7 - Oct 7, 2023

Emma Hamilton is best remembered for being the mistress of Nelson, but her rags-to-riches and back again, story has a fascination all its own. Hamilton was a larger than life character who defied the proprieties of her time and who was a "personality" long before the infamous Kardashians. It is a remarkable story, but as with any history play, the challenge is how many facts does the audience need to know and how are these going to be conveyed. Writer, April De Angelis, squeezes in a lot of information, but it sometimes feels rather awkwardly inserted, distracting from what is probably meant primarily to be a reflection on mother-daughter relationships. Act I shows Emma as a wilful young woman who has risen to the heights of society and whose daring dismays her trepidatious, low-born mother, Mrs Cadogan. Act II contrasts an older Emma, now suffering hard times but still opportunistic and optimistic, with her practical and disapproving daughter, Horatia Nelson. De Angelis doesn't go very deeply into the dissection of these relationships, but simply allows the real life mother-daughter team of Caroline and Rose Quentin to show their considerable acting chops as they alternate roles, with Rose playing the young Emma in Act I and Caroline portraying the older version in Act II. Both actors clearly enjoy their opportunity to embody the irrepressible Lady Hamilton, and Caroline's striking of Emma's 'attitudes' in the second act was wonderfully over the top. This is an evening that provides a beguiling portrait, if not a great deal of insight, into a woman who lived an exceptional life and who was beloved by one of England's greatest national heroes.

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Steve Gregson

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