As the product of a 90s British education, the history I was exposed to was devoid of any. Black people except for a small bit part in the footnote somewhere under the banner of slavery. So a play which gives visibility to black people’s experiences during the Great War was an appealing and promising prospect.
Home Truths is an important tale of the sacrifice and hardships that are rarely told
Lest We Forget follows the story of black Londoner William Booth (Gilbert Kyem Jnr) and Edith Booth (Charlotte Green) , a white northerner who moves down to London with her brother Phillip (Chris Anderson) to find work. William and Edith find love despite racial prejudice and the taboos around their romance. It’s set against the backdrop of World War I, charting their experience pre, during and after the war.
We see little of William’s interior character so often the play is experienced through Edith’s perspective. Despite the subject matter, the play struggles when it tries consciously to explore the racial discourse. There are aspects of the black characters that don’t ring true. For example, William’s easy defiance of Mr Jenkins in act one showed a lack of awareness of his precarious position as a black man in a hostile white society.
His sister Annie’s (Cassandra Hercules) seeming shock and anger when Edith’s brother won’t hold her hand equally doesn’t feel credible. One can’t help think Annie is more likely to be weary than angry. The complexities of racial hostility and microaggressions and how that might impact these characters is missed completely, perhaps highlighting a very light grasp of these issues.
The play, written by Charlotte Green who plays Edith, comes into its own in the war scenes. Well researched and brought to life vividly, the horror, despair and weariness of war fall heavily on the audience.
The standout performances come from the two supporting actors. Chris Anderson masters his three roles as the bilious Mr Jenkins, the hapless and naive Dave and Edith’s bigoted brother – Each character brought to life with robust performances. However Cassandra Hercules steals most scenes by breathing depth and texture into her character, Annie.
Well researched and brought to life vividly, the horror, despair and weariness of war fall heavily on the audience
There’s some inventive direction from David Hubball . Parallel scenes between Edith and her brother and William and his sister, where characters, at times, repeated lines in unison, provided great contrast between the two families. The compare and contrast device is used later on in the play to compare lives of William as a soldier at war and lives back at home in blighty.
Though the actors work with a limited set, the play creates a credible early 20th century setting. The authentic costuming and use of music helps transport the audience into the period. While voiceovers occasionally help to set the scene in place of elaborate staging.
Overall the play would be ideal for anyone who wants to understand more about World War One and black experiences in the same period. Home Truths is an important tale of the sacrifice and hardships that are rarely told.