In this production of Speak Truth to Power (a play by Ariel Dorfman), ten American High School Students weave together the words and stories of fifty human rights activists from around the world to create a sensitive and inspirational piece. Using simple but stimulating set, costume and direction, this production supports but does not overpower the authoritative message captured in the words of these courageous advocates of human rights and, more powerfully still, puts these words in the mouths of a group of talented young performers.
The black-box theatre space contained two easels supporting black boards with various black and white images of a variety of faces; two black chairs and tables; and two black briefcases. Two of the performers, a young man and young woman, wore white, rich suit-like clothing, complete with jewellery representing the voices of the oppressors of human rights (whether that was corporations, governments etcetera), whereas the other eight young men and women wore simple grey robes and red scarves used as headdresses at the commencement of the piece. Both the costume and set (and the sound and lighting for that matter) were simple and effective, making the point of difference and separation without over labouring it.
The performances of the cast overall are definitely praiseworthy. I was thoroughly impressed with the level of maturity, conviction and sensitivity with which they delivered the compelling stories of horror, injustice, courage and hope. Two performers that particularly stood out to me, however, were Alex Fraser and Damon Gordon, who especially demonstrated a remarkable grasp of the gravity of the content in their varied and credible performances. One of the very few things that let this production down is the rare moments which became rather overdramatic in their delivery and fleetingly undermined the reality and severity of the content. Another was the over-repetition in places that became rather grating, and although was clearly motivated by the urgent passion behind the words at time wasn’t delivered fully appropriately and felt patronising or over-stressed.
All in all this production does what it sets out to do: engage and inspire. Heartbreaking and hopeful, Speak Truth to Power is powerfully evocative and stirring, and left me with a strong sense of inspiration at hearing young people speaking the words of human rights heroes with such strength and compassion.