It is very easy to experience and appreciate why Benet Brandreth, barrister, novelist, actor and rhetoric coach to the Royal Shakespeare Company, has twice received the accolade of World Public Speaking Champion. For an hour on Wednesday evening in The Headmaster Porter Theatre at Framlingham College, a large FramSoc audience was wonderfully entertained by both the content and the exquisite delivery of his talk to the society entitled Shakespeare and his Women.
Having established the definition of rhetoric (the use of the spoken word to persuade and move an audience), Benet proceeded to provide the most agile example of the art as he took his listeners on a 15th century tour from Stratford-upon-Avon, via a long stop-over in Venice, to London and finally back to Stratford. En route they were introduced to the forces, largely female, who had both pushed and helped to create the climate for William Shakespeare to become the world’s greatest master of the English Language. Illustrated with examples of the female characters in Shakespeare’s plays and supported by an astonishingly detailed knowledge of the history of Venice, Benet treated all present to an evening that could not fail to lift the spirits on a gloomy February evening.
With his effortlessly relaxed style, and ever present mischievous smile, Benet’s ability to tease, engage and, indeed, enthral, his audience, as well as shamelessly plug his latest historical thriller, The Spy of Venice, was nothing short of a tour de force.
As Benet signed copies of his book at the end of the evening a member of the audience was heard to remark, ‘he could have been talking about changing a tyre and it would have been just as exciting’. Perhaps that is the biggest compliment that one could pay to a master of the art of rhetoric.