Theatre Review: Truth To Power Café (Riverside Theatres, Sydney) ★★★★1/2

After a particularly challenging week in the news cycle, the outright misogyny and with those in power continuing to act with impunity, this show could not have been performed at a more important time. On Friday night, Sydney’s Riverside Theatres was host to a compelling and cathartic piece of performance art that reminded the audience that every voice needs to be heard; and what those voices had to say was truly powerful.

Truth to Power Cafe, Riverside Theatres Parramatta, Friday 12th March. Photo by Ken Leanfore.

Creator Jeremy Goldstein sets the scene with a series of monologues about his father, Mick Goldstein, his family origins and its tradition of performance and storytelling, and his connection to The Hackney Gang, which comprised Mick and the iconic Harold Pinter.

The audience is very much taken on a journey which uncovers the climate in which Harold Pinter created his plays; it’s a masterclass in the influences of post-Second World War theatre. Jeremy’s performance was dignified and passionate. The use of photos, archive footage, and letters to structure his performance combine nicely with the spoken word.

Truth to Power Cafe, Riverside Theatres Parramatta, Friday 12th March. Back L to R: Anne Louise Rentell (Associate Director), Subini Hyde, Alana MacLean, Beverley Burlakov, Kate Rowe, Jeremy Goldstein, Mark Mariano. Front L to R: Zander Stemple, Max Taylor Cattana, Bonnie Cowan. Photo by Ken Leanfore.

The most powerful moment in his performance comes as he reveals the heartache and tension between his father and himself, with the impact of the AIDS crisis and his HIV+ diagnosis causing friction and estrangement. Tragically the men never got the chance to repair their relationship, but the performance itself feels healing and cathartic.

Mark Mariano. Photo by Ken Leanfore.

Like a beat poet open mic night, members of the audience are invited onto the stage to confront all that has power over them and to call it out, as the show’s title, Truth To Power Café, really comes into its own. Clearly these audience members were willing participants and had prepared extraordinary monologues. I have to pay tribute to the production team for the range of age, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender in their selection, which was inspiring to see. Clearly real care had been taken in ensuring diverse representation.

Beverley Burlakov. Photo by Ken Leanfore.

There was a real breadth of emotional weight in these stories, from retired Beverly who described how music has saved her throughout her life, to Max a young man who spoke about his challenges with mental health, and the teenage Zander who opened up about confronting his loneliness. The entire cast displayed a vulnerability which made for a potent emotional connection with the audience, the essence of what make great live performance.

Zander Stemple. Photo by Ken Leanfore.

The night ended with a truly special monologue from an original 78er, Kate Rowe. A 78er is someone who in 1978, at the first Mardi Gras protest in Sydney, spoke to truth to power to fight for her rights to love, and was arrested for it. Now 70-years-old, she emphasized the importance of continual growth in order to a live a truly nourished life.

There was a feeling of catharsis with the completion of each monologue and as I left the theatre, I felt buoyed by their bravery and sense of empowerment. It made me pause and reflect; given the chance to get up at the Truth To Power Café, what would be the power that you would confront?

By Adam Van Rooijen

Truth to Power Café plays Riverside Theatres Saturday March 13th at 8pm. Tickets: Adults $39 Concession $35, 30 & Under $31, 18 & Under $27. Bookings via, phone at (02) 8839 3399, or Box Office from 1 hour prior to performance.

For more on Truth To Power Café visit the official website.

Jeremy Goldstein is a producer, writer/performer and HIV+ activist with ACT UP London. For three decades he has championed underrepresented voices, and new forms of artistic and political expression. His work has been described as “an evocative theatrical wonderland” (Guardian). In 2002, he founded London Artists Projects, commissioning and producing shows with many celebrated artists winning awards including Evening Standard, Fringe First, h.Club, London Cabaret and BBC Audio Drama. In 2012, he won an h.Club Award and in recognition of his political theatre work was named in Time Out as among the 100 most influential people in UK culture.

One thought on “Theatre Review: Truth To Power Café (Riverside Theatres, Sydney) ★★★★1/2

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  1. Great idea! We must all speak truth to the power(s) over our lives, both negative AND positive and seek to understand and acknowledge that those who hold negative power over us (excepting one!) have their own story to tell, often filled with the same hurt they may inflict on us, whilst recognising the positive power(s) that influence us and perhaps guide us.

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