Soon Gone: A Windrush Chronicle is a powerful, poignant and timely lesson on Black-British history.
Following a fictional West-Indian family living and growing up in London, from the 1940s through to present day, over four generations. The eight-part BBC4 series is made up of 15 minute monologues, consisting of intricately written and emotively performed stories of various family members. It is original storytelling at its finest.
In collaboration with the Young Vic Theatre, this project was curated by Kwame Kwei-Armah, working alongside a diverse and fresh team of British actors, writers and directors including the notable Sir Lenny Henry who worked as the executive producer. Together they have created a beautiful and striking method of storytelling about human life and experience, leaving the viewer reflecting on their own sense of identity and heritage. The series addresses a plethora of topical themes such as status, diasporic culture, colourism and race politics - complex tropes skillfully dissected.
The first episode is set in 1949, one year after the arrival of the Empire Windrush, and tells the story of nurse Eunice Daley, played by Danielle Vitalis, a young Jamaican woman with a new-born child - living within the four walls of an empty, dull room. She is perhaps the embodiment of illusions of grandeur; her hopes, dreams and expectations proving far from reality, given the hostile reception and loneliness upon arrival, all in stark contrast to the utopian vision of a new life in Britain. Nevertheless, she is optimistic and hopeful, reflecting the attitudes of many others in her position at the time. The episode ends with the line “God is good to those who wait.” which perfectly sets the series’ tone.
Eunice starts the family tree, with ensuing stories from subsequent family members. Soon Gone is not simply a series of anecdotes, but stories of truth and authenticity which often go unheard and untold. Every episode is resonating, profound and melancholy yet the writing injects real humour and personality making it a truly entertaining watch. What I find most impressive also is that the episodes are set against the backdrop of key historical events that provide rich context. For example, the case of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 and the New Cross fire of 1981 in which Yvonne, played by Vinette Robinson, gives us a resounding performance of passion and anger in response. In some ways paralleling the Grenfell Tower fire, with the emergent debates surrounding socioeconomic dismissals, inequalities and racial tensions.
This short-series is provocative and compelling, honouring the past, present and future. Kwei-Armah has said he hopes that the series will draw viewers to question their own story and how we collectively move forward and I absolutely wish for the same.