I'll Tell You This For Nothing, Assembly George Square, Edinburgh ***
Subtitled “My Mother the War Hero”, I’ll Tell You This for Nothing is a sweetly-crafted memory play in which actor Kate JasonSmith pays tribute to her own mother Phyllis’s life, in particular her service as a nurse during the Second World War.
Given that we learn her mother lived until she was in her 90s, it feels as though JasonSmith has shown us only a fragmentary window upon a life well-lived, and there is the sense that the character she’s created here – in collaboration with dramaturg Deb Filler and director Jan Bolwell – isn’t quite given the space to grow from her breadth of experience.
Yet JasonSmith, who is from Wellington, New Zealand, is a brisk and lively solo storyteller, and her facility for accents helps her paint a picture of those times through its characters, particularly when she inhabits her wide-eyed young Irish mother and the much older woman reminiscing with the young Kate.
The story flits between horror and hope; between the dry humour of frontline life in Belgium and the vileness of a posting to Belsen; between romance with Kate’s officer father – a Catholic – and the bigotry of Phyllis’ protestant mother.
It’s a warm portrait, not only of JasonSmith’s mother, who earned the Legion d’Honneur, but to all the women of her generation.
Until 25 August