“History is the antidote to lies”. This belief was the motivating force behind American intellectual Howard Zinn’s approach to chronicling the past.
The Time Of Our Lies at Park Theatre is a dramatic engagement with Zinn’s life and work.
The core of the play is a monologue by Zinn himself, interspersed with the stories and songs of people around the world who have experienced the agony of war and oppression.
Born in 1922 to a working-class family in Brooklyn, Zinn went on to labour in a shipyard before serving as a bomber in the US Air Force during the Second World War.
That is when the lies started in earnest – lies about why he needed to drop bombs on places like Pilsen in the Czech Republic and Royan in France.
Following the war, Zinn became an activist academic who was heavily involved in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movements.
He developed a firm opposition to armed conflict, coming to see the military as “old men devising new ways for young men to die”. His commitment to telling history from the point of view of ordinary people was a lifelong passion that drove his illustrious career.
Written by Bianca Bagatourian and directed by Ché Walker, The Time Of Our Lies is dramatically somewhat static and best suited to those prepared to engage intellectually with the content.
But if you are of the right mindset, you will find this a compelling show.
Following a last- minute change of cast, the lead role is played most nights by Martina Laird, although Zinn was, by prior arrangement, played by Colin Salmon of James Bond fame on the night I attended.
Sporting a decent Brooklyn accent, Salmon offered a riveting rendition that dominated the stage.
Also of note was the stand-out performance by Jessye Romeo as part of the supporting cast.
The core message of the play can be summed up in Zinn’s claim that “the interests of the government and the interests of the people are not the same” – a history lesson with sonorous contemporary relevance.
The Time Of Our Lies runs until 10 August at Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP.