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A performance of And The Beat goes On…..  left an audience at HMP Usk in South Wales ‘deeply moved’ in November 2018.

 

Quaker Prison Chaplain Hilary Beynon shared the reflections of one man who attended. John, an inmate and regular attender at weekly Meeting for Worship in the prison, writes: ‘The play concerns issues surrounding Nonviolent Direct Action 〈 NVDA〉 and consisted of a number of sketches that guided the audience through a potted history of the NVDA cause.

 

‘We began in the seventeenth century with a monologue by Elizabeth  Hooton and throughout the performance the audience were reminded of the way Quakers through the ages have used speech and peaceful protest as a means of drawing attention to the issues of the day.

 

‘The play was thought provoking, humorous and extremely moving at times. It demonstrated the power of NVDA and the bravery of the people who put their own lives at risk for the sake of those persecuted in society.

 

‘The audience were, to a man, deeply moved by the sacrifices made by the characters represented in order to do what was right to stimulate change in actions and attitudes’.

 

Published in The Friend, 11th January 2019

 

    Journeymen Theatre demand our attention again.

 

What a good company Journeymen Theatre  is!  One play after another opens ours eyes to Quaker issues and demands our attention.

 

Journeymen recently performed their latest work, And the Beat Goes On….. at a well attended Kingston Quaker Centre.  If you weren’t there, eat your heart out – we saw it first (well, second actually, but it felt really fresh and new).   Many thanks to the company and to the sponsors, John and Diana Lampen for creating this new mosaic of 400 years of Quaker activism.

 

This show celebrates the vibrancy, the ingenuity and the courage of Quakers who have chosen NVDA to express their witness. And the Beat Goes On….. showed us how Quakers challenged social and religious conventions from the earliest days of the movement using a range of strategies and methods.  Quaker activism in words, in writing and in actions started with the truculent Elizabeth Hooton of Mansfield, the first woman Quaker and George Fox’s mentor.  The play moved swiftly to the first days of abolition thinking, showing the conscientious struggles over slavery of early Quakers in Pennsylvania and the passionate challenges of Benjamin Lay, probably the most Eldered friend ever.  Benjamin Lay was recently recognised as a pioneer voice for abolition of slavery, with a gift for dramatic actions – which translated well to the stage.

 

We heard about the Alice Paul’s Silent Sentinels of the USA, formed around 1914, who witnessed silently outside the White House for women’s suffrage despite beatings, imprisonment and torture.  Their presence for 6 days every week was a continuous reminder of injustice.  After 2 ½ years of witness, women in the USA gained the vote.

 

The mosaic told us about modern Quaker activists, and their struggles over nuclear weapons, and the UK’s arms trade. Quakers adopted very different methods from the Silent Sentinels. At Faslane there were road blockings, zany Peace Olympics, and criminal damage in the cause of peace.

 

Pieces about recent actions highlighted local Quaker Sam Walton, and the anti-fracking demonstrations involving mass witness-through-worship in the chilly spaces of Pendle Hill. All these actions that we learned about, whether individual or by a group sprang from Quaker values and become reality as personal witness. Indeed, Journeymen describe their work as ‘theatre of witness’. There are also deeper questions. Lynn Morris speaks the words of the Palestinian Quaker and Peace Activist, Jean Zaru; these words on the nature of pacifism, what it is and definitely what it is not, can shake sensibilities.

 

The final piece took us to Northern Ireland and the Quaker contribution during the struggles which preceded the Good Friday agreement. The Peace Group’s work in Derry is shown to be down to earth, creative community-building . Quakers’ roles has never been prominently recognised in helping bring about peace there but who cares?  The changes happened. 

 

And The Beat Goes On….. is a series of promptings. Just how far is each of us prepared to go in order to ‘oppose that which is legal but clearly wrong’?

 

So, what will next lead Quakers forward to witness for humanity and love?  Anyone’s guess.  But I hope we will have Journeymen Theatre there to tell us about it through their vivid works.

 

 

 

 

 

 And The Beat Goes On…..

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