Lying not too far beneath the CV19 surface of 2020 lie a series of news events that seem to epitomise our times. A famous actor whining about the appearance of a Sikh soldier in Mendes’ Oscar nominated 1917 is one. George Floyd is another. A national preoccupation with the flag-waving, anthem-singing, cheerful-bully-beef-munching ‘old lie’ of war rather than the filth of conflict itself is, of course, a perennial favourite.
This is a self-confident, important piece of work that vibrates with anger, tenderness, truth and humanity.
And we should, it goes without saying, never forget. Never forget the various sacrifices that were made in war. Never forget what led us to hostilities in the first place. Never forget that every statistic has a rich and complex human story behind it. But writers Charlotte Green and Rasheka Christie Carter make the point even within the title of their new production that there are a swathe of invisible soldiers of colour locked out of the tub-thumping “Two World Wars and One World Cup” narrative. Lest We Forget? The difficult truth is that many have never been prepared to remember in the first place.
In WWI, the sweetly tentative romance of soldier William James and factory worker Edith Booth would be unremarkable were it not for his black heritage inviting raised eyebrows, racial slurs and unfounded hate. The writing is too sophisticated to seek to hammer it home, but their story – and the backdrop of the 1919 race riots – is of course horribly resonant with where some of the darker corners of humanity took us a century later.
This is a self-confident, important piece of work that vibrates with anger, tenderness, truth and humanity. Initially conceived as a stage production, it works beautifully as a radio play and the small band of actors fuse a rare polish and verve with a lovely sense of sincerity and rawness.
The team are at pains to point out that this was a rehearsed reading and not yet the finished article… in which case, we are – at some point hopefully not too far in the future – in for a dramatic treat, a sense of moral indignation and some haunting exchanges that remind us of our eternal hunger for kindness and togetherness.