“Who has power over you and what do you want to say to them?”
Created by Jeremy Goldstein, Truth to Power Café provides ordinary people a platform to voice their own ‘Truth to Power’ responses to this question. Beginning its UK tour at The Royal Exchange, each night is different, as people of all ages and backgrounds have been invited to share their extraordinary testimonies. Confronting whatever holds power over them, whether a person, an addiction or a health condition, is a revolutionary idea which is hugely uplifting and deeply empowering.
I attended this on Friday 26th April so what follows relates to the speakers on this evening. Inspired by their incredible testimonies, I will also write my own personal ‘Truth to Power’, addressing what has power over me.
Jeremy Goldstein’s own ‘Truth to Power’ frames the evening’s proceedings, as he talks about being HIV+, and his estranged relationship with his father, Mick. A friend of Harold Pinter, and fellow member of the Hackney Gang, Goldstein’s father severed connections with his son before he died. “I had been erased by my own father”. In the aftermath of his death, Jeremy discovered a love and empathy towards his father that had been absent whilst he was alive. He became his hero. Emotional and moving, Goldstein’s ‘Truth to Power’ encapsulates the age old phrase of ‘letting bygones be bygones’.
Championing free speech, Goldstein then invites eight guest speakers onto the stage as they voice their own testimonies addressed to whatever holds power of them. These range from poetic verse to passionate speeches. For Tina, it is bipolar that claimed power over her, and finding a creative outlet became her lifeline, defiantly declaring “Bipolar mate, I’m busy! Jog on!” to emphatic applause.
Marvin addresses the difficulties of escaping the power that being born as working-class can hold over someone. Jenny confronts the prejudices inherent in the acting industry, making a plea for true diversity on screen and stage, wishing for “Art to be a true reflection of society”. For Polly, her chronic health condition means that her kidneys continue to fail, powerlessly becoming reliant on organ donors.
Each story is inspirational, and as each speaker finishes, the mood in the room becomes increasingly electric, charged with an air of defiance and empowerment. This is amplified when Goldstein gives a final rallying call, “Blow our Trumpets Angels”, accompanied to David Bowie’s song ‘Heroes’. It soon becomes clear that each person who steps onto the stage is a hero. They are all resolutely defiant and inspirational.
Truth to Power Café is a revolutionary theatrical experience that has encouraged me to write my own ‘Truth to Power’…
You have had power over me since I was born. Growing up, I always knew I was different. They shouted ‘Lumpy Fingers’ at me in the playground. I found it hard to walk long distances without being in pain. I struggled through school. P.E was a nightmare. You remained undiagnosed until I was sixteen. I thought that would make things easier but it didn’t.
Constantly in pain, I have had multiple operations to remove you from my body. Yet you keep returning, growing like a cancer. I hide my extensive scars against prying eyes, remaining covered even in summer. Because of you, I have a higher chance of getting bone cancer than usual. You are hereditary, so if I have children, each one will have a 50/50 chance of getting you too. What kind of inheritance is that? A lottery, with a jackpot of life-long pain and uncertainty.
You are multiple exostosis. You cause extra bones to spontaneously grow within my joints, hindering my movement. You may have power over my body, but you will not control how I live my life.