An outspoken politician. Married to Eliza. Alive at the time of the American Revolution. Renowned duelist. No, this is not about Alexander Hamilton, but his Irish equivalent: Richard Martin. More commonly known as ‘Hare-trigger Dick’ in his earlier years, and ‘Humanity Dick’ in his later years, we were treated to the little known tale of his fascinating life.
Filled with righteous indignation balanced by droll quips and side-eyed sarcasm, this story of honour, deathly duels and infidelity is told with confidence and affection
On the after-dinner circuit, modern day politicians, and especially former Prime Ministers, can command extortionately large fees. However, Humanity Dick cares little for money or, in fact, the extremely large debts he racks up throughout his lifetime. Instead, he regales us with a narrative undoubtedly wittier and more extraordinary than anyone touring the speech circuit today.
In this simply staged one man show, hosted in the intimate theatre at Junkyard Dogs, star and writer Seán Leonard commands attention from his very first entrance. No mean feat considering that what follows is almost two hours of unbroken monologue, with only a brief interval for respite. Dressed to the nines, Humanity Dick steps out from the dusty exile of history to talk directly to us – and he doesn’t mince his words. Filled with righteous indignation balanced by droll quips and side-eyed sarcasm, this story of honour, deathly duels and infidelity is told with confidence and affection. Leonard’s performance is highly charismatic and by the end you can’t help but love Humanity Dick as much as Leonard clearly does.
Peppered throughout are Leonard’s sprightly impersonations of English upper class buffoons, which are caricatures even more piercing than the lead in Hare-trigger Dick’s duelling pistol. From moments of intense, hushed concentration to bellowing laughter, the audience was charmed and amused in equal measure the whole time. My only criticism would be that the performance had a particular literary quality that sometimes erred slightly too close to that of a talking book. You could certainly imagine this playing on Radio 4 as Sunday evening draws to a close. With a civilised interval and plenty of wine available to purchase during it, it was a genteel way to spend an evening, although none the worse for it.
This homage to a man devoted to preserving his honour challenges us to try harder ourselves. Humanity Dick is a heavily indebted man who cast away fortune in favour of charity and championing animal rights. His indignation led to the very first prosecution for animal cruelty in the world. Leonard follows in his footsteps, with the event helping to raise funds for the RSPCA Brighton. There was even a dog in attendance, proving that Humanity Dick still has four legged friends even today. In a city like Brighton, well known for its progressive politics and strong vegetarian, vegan and animal loving populations, Humanity Dick fits right in. With a fantastic show like this, he will certainly be welcomed back.