Growing up in the 60s and 70s, Star Trek was a family favourite on our TV. With it's multi-racial cast it and stories working on several levels, it was easily a cut above the rest of the series on our small scenes. Each story was both an exciting adventure, but also taught us about war, friendship, loyalty, and sacrifice for a greater good. Sulo was played George Takei, and was a reliable character often to be found grappling with the spaceships controls or being 'beamed down' along with the other major characters.
But it's only in recent years that I'd learnt more of George Takei's story. As Japanese Americans, he and his family were interred after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, and this dreadful experience was the source of his inspiration for Allegiance. He was only aged 5 at the time. 'Allegiance' is not that exact story, but it borrows heavily from his family's real experiences, telling the story of the Kimura family and their struggles in the aftermath of the attack on Pearl Harbour.
Instead we first meet the elderly Sam Kimura, (played both irascibly and humorously by George Takei), a war hero, proudly dressing in his uniform for the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbour of which he wryly says, "they wheel me out for this every year". He is disturbed by the arrival of the executor of his sister's estate, who has a package for him bequeathed by his late sister whom he hasn't seen or spoken to in 50 years. His bitterness pours out, and what subsequently unfolds reveals what happened to cause this state of affairs.
We re-wind to 1942 and meet the young Sammy Kimura, brilliantly portrayed by Telly Leung, and his family who are peacefully farming in California. His father, typical of many immigrants, has ambitions for his son, wanting him to study law. And this is a cause of friction, it's actually his older sister, Kei, played with grace by Aynrand Ferrer, who has the brains - though her father is quick to remind her that she was an A minus student.
As America enters the war, we see a passionate Sammy trying to enlist along with his friends, but they are rejected, even though they are American citizens.
Forced to sell the farm for a fraction of its value, the family are sent to a concentration camp, which is lacking facilities, medicines, dignity and respect. As they adjust to their new status, Sammy still believes that fighting the enemies of America is the only way that Japanese Americans can prove their loyalty to the country and win the freedom of his people. The internees find ways to have fun, a baseball game and a dance are arranged - all with a curfew of course.
One of the characters pointedly says, "You don't see Joe DiMaggio locked up, but we're at war with Italy too", and that highlights the nature of the racism being enacted based on skin tone alone.
But opinions are divided in the camp, others believe that they must be freed first before joining the war effort. His sister Kei meets Frankie Suzuki, played by Patrick Munday, who is a key player in this camp resistance movement. Whilst Kei and Frankie's relationship blossoms, the same is true of Sammy and Nurse Hannah Campbell, a white American played by Megan Gardiner.
As the gulf widens between brother and sister, we see Sammy agree to join a 'suicide brigade' and Frankie refuse to take the draft. We follow Sammy and his comrades into war, his injury and eventual emotional return home. But home isn't what he expected, his beloved grandpa died at the camp, his sister is married to Frankie and has a baby girl, and Nurse Hannah died at the camp. The estrangement begins.
As Old Sam meats Hana, his niece, he realises how he's wasted all those years. I don't think that there was a dry eye in the house by this point.
At the age of 85, George is appearing in 8 shows a week, which is pretty amazing.
This is truly an amazing musical; it's political, it's funny, it's passionate, it's heart-breaking, but ultimately offers a chance for redemption. Don't miss it!
Starring George Takei and Telly Leung with Aynrand Ferrer
Iroy Abesamis, Mark Anderson, Masashi Fujimoto, Megan Gardiner, Raiko Gohara, Eu Jin Hwang, Hana Ichijo, Misa Koide, Patrick Munday, Rachel Jayne Picar, Sario Solomon, Joy Tan, Iverson Yabut.
Address: Charing Cross Theatre, The Arches, Villiers Street, London WC2N 6NL
Box office: 08444 930650
When: Now until 8th April 2023
Performances: Monday to Saturday at 19.30
Matinee performances: Wednesday and Saturday at 14:30
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes including an interval
Prices: £20.00 - £65.00
Premium seats £80.00 (Includes Cast Album Download & Poster)