Angry, compelling and disturbing in many ways Our War by Andrew Ashaye tells the stories of three Nigerians who came to Britain during the last war, came to what we would call then, and they believed it to be, the Motherland. It was, of course, the illusion dreamt up by those who ran the British Empire to allow it to call on the citizens of the countries which belonged to it for help in times of crisis. But while they came they did not find themselves equals of their white brothers and sisters. Ashaye tells the stories of Ola, who was a nurse, Christian a soldier and Tommy who joined the airforce. Although they are Nigerians men and women came from the Caribbean as well. What they confronted was racism quite simply. One telling moment is when Ola, the nurse, (the splendid Lola Oteh-Cole) is caught out in an air raid and miles from home seeks an air raid shelter. She is turned away by the white jobsworth warden. The black shelter is two streets down on the left. “Go there” the man tells her. Later after the war and she is torn about going back home with her fiancé Tommy (Tobi Otulayo) as a man of means who while he flies feels the equal of those he flies with, but who, once crippled in action discovers things are not the same and wants to return to a job in Nigeria. She feels her home now is in Britain. Part of her argument is as a nurse she is needed and she has been offered a job to run a team of nurses. Fair enough, but it is a team of black nurses. The play probably needs some cutting, it makes its points more often than necessary, but the sincerity of the cast shines through. Ed Petrie is a splendidly by the rule British officer insisting all is done for the best and soldiers exist to obey orders, while Hamish Somers the decent white soldier cannot understand why Christian (Beko Wood), is so angry and does not like him. Are they not both soldiers? Christian good at killing people, and he is not. So what is wrong? The answer powerfully stated by Christian is the different clothing, equipment and treatment by the officer class. The story of racism in post war Britain has been told in other plays but not what happened in wartime and the myth of the Motherland doing good and taking parliamentary democracy to the heathen still lingers in the British psyche. This is a stimulating and very well acted evening.
Lola Oteh-Cole: Olayinka/Mama
Tobi Outayo: Tommy.
Beko Wood: Christian.
Ed Petrie: The General/Shelter Warden
Hamish Somers: Husband/Strings.
Director: Debo Oluwatuminu.
Set & Costume Designer: Emma Williams.
Lighting Designer: Cary Chomsoonthorn.
Sound Designer: Emmanuel Edwards.
Production photographs: Leah Lewis.
Movement Consultant: Tunji Falana.