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A question of power: The brutal truth about new Powerhouse show


Jeremy Goldstein wants you to answer this question as part of his internationally acclaimed event, The Truth to Power Café.

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Opening the Powerhouse’s MELT: Festival of Queer Arts and Culture, the participatory show has its roots in the 1950’s anti-war movement, and Nobel Prize Laureate Harold Pinter.

The Truth to Power Café has a simple premise with a complex result. Jeremy Goldstein asks participants to answer the singular question: “Who has power over you and what do you want to say to them?”

The performance is rooted in the philosophies of Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter and the Hackney gang, a group of friends who believed in the anti-war movement, speaking truth to power, and an independent media. Goldstein’s father, Mick, was a member of the Hackney Gang, and Pinter’s best friend.

The ensuing performance becomes a mixture of memoir, spoken word, imagery, music, and audience participation – but Goldstein won’t make you go it alone, beginning the performance with his own response.

“When I was growing up I had a very difficult relationship with my father. When he died in 2013, I discovered a lot of things about him in the aftermath of his death that I didn’t know anything about,” Goldstein told InQueensland.

Goldstein said he had organised a lifetime of letters shared between Goldstein and Pinter to be given over to the British Library, and following his father’s passing, visited the British Library to read the letters.

“It was like an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? I got to know my father in a way I hadn’t known before.”

“I discovered that he also really wanted to become a writer. His sense of pride prevented him from risking failure in front of his best friend, who happened to be the world’s greatest playwright. This caused a lot of problems for us in the home,” said Goldstein.

“My dad and Harold Pinter remained friends for 60 years, and maintained their belief in speaking truth to power and erring on the side of the disempowered. In that same way, I am the son of the Hackney Gang and I tell my story from that perspective.”

In the show Goldstein tells his story of his turbulent relationship with his father, a troubled man who believed in the tenets of the anti-war movement, and his status as a HIV positive campaigner and activist, then inviting audience members to stand up and be unburdened by their truth.

Jeremy Goldstein at the Truth to Power Cafe (Image: Ken Leanfore)

“Towards the end of the show there’s a catharsis which happens in the room. Through the magic of live theatre, there’s a sense of transformation which comes from the audience and it’s a lovely experience,” he said.

The Truth to Power Cafe aims to give a voice to the disenfranchised, with people taking aim at their family, their boss, their lover, politicians, bankers, religious leaders. Goldstein wants to restore the power of truth in a post-truth world.

“I’ve noticed the people who are happy to do it have a really developed sense of empathy and are prepared to be really honest with themselves, because to get up and reveal yourself like that in the eyes of your own community – it can be transformational,” he said.

“I’ve learned that everyone, no matter who they are in the world, has their own story to tell and so far we have had 300 to 400 people participate in our show. A real strength of the show is the diversity of voices we include – most people have never been in theatre before.”

The Truth to Power Cafe will present its 39th edition, opening Brisbane’s MELT: Festival of Queer Arts and Culture, after having toured around the world for the past three years.

Henry Woolf, the last surviving member of the Hackney Gang, and Jeremy Goldstein. (Image: Darren Black)

Goldstein said he was thrilled to be able to perform the show to an audience that celebrates Brisbane’s LGBTQI+ community.

“I can’t wait to do it for the MELT audience. I’m queer – I’m gay, I’m HIV positive. I know this audience is really going to understand what we are trying to do,” said Goldstein.

“I know they’re going to be on our side already, it’s already getting quite emotional to be able to perform it for this specific festival

“I do feel that, given the people who are taking part in Brisbane, there will be a lot of pride in the room and on the stage, to be able to do the show is going to be really special,” he said.

“Also – it’s our 39th edition of the show in our biggest theatre yet. It’s going to look spectacular in the Powerhouse.”

Brisbane Powerhouse Artistic Director Kris Stewart said “MELT belongs authentically to the local community and is our most creatively diverse event; from big and bright large-scale works to intimate, honest and deeply personal shows.”

“We are excited to leave 2020 in our wake and have fun with a celebration of queer arts and culture that pushes boundaries, explores unique art forms and shares important stories.”

The Truth to Power Cafe opens MELT: Festival of Queer Arts and Culture on May 20 at the Brisbane Powerhouse. MELT Festival will run from May 20 to 30, for more information visit MELT Festival’s website. 

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