LEST WE FORGET at Greenwich Theatre
There’s a lot of really good stuff in Charlotte Green’s play Lest We Forget about the disgraceful treatment of black British troops who fought and died in the First World War.
The characters are well fleshed out and believable, the century-old settings are realistic, the love-story at its heart is genuinely moving and the dialogue is fearless, credible and often ingenious, cleverly resonating with contemporary audiences without ever becoming preachy.
What’s more, the acting in director David Hubball’s production, which I saw at Greenwich Theatre on Remembrance Day, was uniformly excellent. Gilbert Kyem Jr as doomed West Indian private William James, playwright Charlotte as his white wife Edith, Cassandra Hercules as William’s devoted little sister Annie and Chris Anderson in multiple roles, two of them appalling racists, gave the piece real emotional depth which made the bleakness of the tragedy not only harrowing but authentic.
Yet it didn’t quite work as a narrative. The problem is a logistical one – all the scenes are short and many of the plot-threads run in tandem, which means the settings are changing constantly, the cast are continually moving on, off and around the stage and the scenery, though minimal, is shifted too frequently. The upshot is a lack of flow that seriously disrupts the play’s dramatic impact.
It’s a real shame because Lest We Forget is made up of fine components. If someone could figure out how to fit them together more cohesively, this would become an beautifully synchronised unity.