I’m sure that my 6x great grandfather would have remembered where he was and what he was doing when he heard that Spencer Perceval was assassinated. Perceval remains the one and only British sitting PM to have been bumped off. Nick Hall has devised an eponymous show to tell Spencer’s story, so that we will know his story and remember him.
Spencer is flat-packed in sections: Nick starts with a warm-up intro, before morphing backwards through time to the nineteenth century, replete with versatile wig and a new persona. The first part of the story might be true, but then again it might not be. Nick is a History graduate (and proud of his Desmond) who knows that history is an interpretation seen through today’s lenses. And this is a loose interpretation, but all the more amusing and engaging for that. Fake news, indeed.
In the second section, perhaps with more added truth, we learn about Spencer’s upbringing, his marriage and large family, and the career in law that led to political office and then PM. Sadly he turned out to be an unpopular figure, particularly because of his abolition of slavery and the effect that had on the economy. This led directly to his assassination on 11th May 1812, gunned down in the Westminster lobby by one John Bellingham, a ruined businessman. People cheered in the streets when they heard the news.
The most moving part of the show is Nick’s adoption of John Bellingham’s character, to hear his point of view and to play on our sympathies. The law didn’t have any sympathy; Bellingham was hanged a few days later. There is audience participation to finish to the show which is still perhaps work in progress, but well worth keeping in.
The overall result: Spencer is a classic one-man Fringe show, full of energy and jokes, but with a thread of clever observations relevant to today’s political mess. It is engaging throughout and definitely has the makings of a five-star winner.