Words: Luisa Bider
Speaking truth to power has its roots in the anti-war movement and is a non-violent means of conflict resolution.
Truth to power is at the heart of this unique international theatre project, created by Penny Arcade’s long-time producer turned writer, performer and ACT UP activist, Jeremy Goldstein.
‘Truth to Power Café’ is a priceless repository of living social history, wit, wisdom and defiance. The project which has been wowing audiences for over a year in England’s north, Australia, The Netherlands and in Croatia for Queer Zagreb, uses theatre as a shared space for ordinary people to respond to the question ‘who has power over you and what do you want to say to them?’
As part of a UK tour, ‘Truth to Power Café’ finally opened in London on Sunday night in the iconic Conway Hall in the West End.
As ten courageous souls took to the stage, their words reverberated around the Hall, which provided an inspired setting as an international site for resistance and free thought since 1929.
Jeremy is cast as a participant, opening the show with an intensely moving monologue in which he recalls the power his late father Mick Goldstein had over him, and their untimely estrangement before he died.
Mick was a member of Nobel Prize winning playwright Harold Pinter’s Hackney Gang with actor and poet Henry Woolf. The three of them remained the best of friends for over sixty years.
It is Woolf’s original verse, along with his own memoir that Goldstein performs as the real-life twenty-first century son of the Gang.
A son who is gay and HIV, who around the death of his father, ended up on chemo battling HIV related kaposi sarcoma cancer by ‘smoking meth to numb the pain’.
This eventually leads to healing and recovery between Goldstein and his father even in death - “the dead live on inside of us”, says Goldstein.
It is at this most hopeful point; Goldstein invites 10 participants to the stage to speak their truth to power as experts in their own lives.
Included are Ruth Barnett, an 84-year-old Holocaust survivor delivering an impassioned plea to end all wars; Mike Jackson portrayed in the movie ‘Pride’ co-founder of Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners, demanded an inquiry into the policing of the Orgreave picket lines during the miners’ strike in 1984; Joe Delaney, resident of the Lancaster West Estate, now active in the Justice 4 Grenfell campaign, spoke of his disempowerment over the tragedy; and Erkan Affan, a new generation 24-year-old artist and activist proudly proclaimed himself queer, trans and Muslim, whilst calling out the current ‘Divide and Rule’ narrative, that has “forced us to fear and hate ourselves” over centuries of patriarchal rule and oppression.
It isn’t until the show ends in a stunning coup de theatre directed by Jen Heyes, that Goldstein informs us his tattered angels wings towering over the stage “are made from the garbage of my heart”.
With tears streaming down my cheeks, I am convinced that all inequalities are interconnected, that we are united through a sense of outrage, humanity, and love, all our feelings valid, and we should never stop standing up for each other.
At the final rally cry, audience and participants alike wanted to follow Goldstein into the Empire of the Promised Land. Unmissable.
‘Truth to Power Café’ is touring in the UK and internationally. For details on how to take part and to book tickets visit truthtopower.co.uk