“I have been charged with criminal offences…..I have been accused publicly and repeatedly of acts of terrorism. I would like to assert for the record that my actions have never had any criminal nor terrorising motive. My motive is the fight for justice and equality. My inspiration is love.......not a sweet love nor a romantic one, but a tough, true sense of kinship with all other human beings.”
In 1969, on the shores of Lake Champlain, upstate New Jersey, Rosa Gold, happily married wife of a radical lawyer and mother of five, sees a naked woman emerge from the water in the moonlight. This young woman, Heidi, will become the great love and challenge of Rosa's life. Uncompromising and determined, Heidi lives the life Rosa, herself a communist in the 1940s, began to live but failed to sustain, giving her all for the cause of equality and justice.
Rosa had been tried for spying for the Soviets in 1949. Joe had been her defence lawyer. After he rescued her from a jail sentence or the death penalty, she married him. But the judge refused to lift bail and she still lives under the shadow of the threat of re-trial if more evidence surfaces. Always on her case is the mysterious figure of Bud, FBI agent and defender of the Land of the Brave and the Free.
Rosa and Heidi’s relationship blossoms in secret until the Reagan era in the 1980’s when Heidi disappears underground and is caught and arrested by the FBI for conspiracy against the American government. It is Joe Gorsky who takes up her case and defends her. She is sentenced to 126 years in jail.
In the summer of 2001, after Joe’s death, Rosa at last has the courage to visit Heidi in jail in California and here, at last, the truth about whether she did or did not spy for the Soviet Union is at last confronted.
THE ARREST OF ROSA GOLD explores what it is to be a revolutionary in the United States in the second half of the twentieth century, probing the nature of personal and political love, commitment to a cause, marriage to one partner for life, the nature of betrayal and what it means to struggle to make a better world.
On the public reading at Jewish Museum, London in 2012:
"This is just about the best play I have seen in years and it's gone a long way to restoring my faith in theatre as a profound and powerful medium of ideas and emotion. It's amazing to think that this was a barely rehearsed reading, so intense and gripping was the experience. It helped, of course, that the cast was so stellar. Penny Downie as Rosa was superb. But the real star was the play itself. It was written with assurance and with real writerly integrity. It tackled some difficult issues: idealism, communism, illusions and disillusionment, love, faith and the need just to get through life, to endure, to love passionately and inadequately, to make connections, ideolgical, emotional and sexual and the need to make compromises, to fail, to fall, to give up, to surrender to the grinding inexorabilites of life. It's a profoundly haunting and moving play written by a writer clearly at the very peak of her powers. If there is any justice (another of the themes of the play), The Arrest of Rosa Gold deserves to grace the stage at the National Theatre."
By Neil McKenna, Journalist and Author of "The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde" and "Fanny and Stella".
EXTRACT FROM THE ARREST OF ROSA GOLD
ACT 1, ON THE SHORES OF LAKE CHAMPLAIN ON THE U.S. AND CANADIAN BORDER
Heidi, wet and naked, sits by the waterside. A small boat is pulled up nearby. She
is drawing in her sketch pad.
Rosa enters wearing her night gown with a wrap over her shoulders.
She watches Heidi. All is still.
Rosa suddenly approaches Heidi and places the wrap over her.
Heidi: What the heck!
Rosa: Hold it round you.
Heidi: Frightened your husband’s going to see me?
Rosa: He’s asleep.
Heidi: I’m ok like this.
Rosa: At least dry yourself with it.
Heidi: I might go back in the water soon.
Rosa: What happened?
Heidi: Leon’s in Canada now.
Rosa: And you’re still here.
Heidi: As you see.
Rosa: Were you and he together for long?
Heidi: A year and a half.
Rosa: Did he mean a lot to you?
Heidi: I never even looked at another guy the whole time I was with him.
Rosa: And that’s love?
Heidi: It was a big deal for me.
Rosa: When you love someone you cover their back, and you know that whatever happens
they got yours.
Heidi: Is that what you and Joe do for each other?
Heidi: Is that it?
Rosa: What more is there?
Heidi: Have you ever loved for more than your life is worth?
Rosa: And nearly lost it.
Heidi: How so?
Rosa: What you drawing?
Heidi shows Rosa the drawing.
Rosa: This, this glimpse..is that his heel? And so much lake. The way you capture it.
Do you believe that he’s running away?
Heidi: I have no right to depict him like this....Jesus, why am I telling you?
Rosa: I’m the only one awake with you here right now.
Heidi: You know, there’s some people who...who matter....whose simple presence just
makes life kind of.....
Heidi: Shit, I miss him already.
Rosa: You sailed all the way across the lake?
Heidi: Until we were on the other side. And guess what? Same grass, same air, same trees
but the land has a different name. You ever wonder how they can get away with that?
Rosa: Because we let them.
Heidi goes to the boat. She takes some papers out of it.
Heidi: He gave me his draft papers and an address.
Rosa: Hedging his bets?
Heidi: You know right before you came just now? I had this urge to dive in and swim across to
the other side, catch up with him, let him dress me in his clothes, put his ring on my finger,
the whole deal.....
Rosa: Who’s stopping you?
Heidi: Oh shit, you know, in Chicago, by the barricades, we were holding hands and when the crowd
started to lurch forward we had like this reflex action, like a shot of electricity right through each of
us....only...you know, it came out different...because he like jolted right back, some spring inside
him just recoiled....
Rosa: And you?
Heidi: I surged forward.
Rosa: A crowd’s a powerful beast.
Heidi: No. It was wasn’t the crowd. It was me.
Rosa: Go on.
Heidi: It was like I was being catapulted from inside...I was pushing myself, pushing forward.
I was so damn angry.......I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do...like now...I don’t know...
but there was no way I could stand there...watching these so-called democratic
representatives hiding behind the pigs and defending this war.....And you know what?
Oh shit, this is so true, this is it!......- Leon might have held back but it didn’t make no
difference. No way. He got as beat up as me.....Hold back. Push forward. They beat up on
you all the same. Don’t you see? There’s no point in being afraid. It makes no
goddam difference. You might as well push forward......You might as well push forward as
hard as a goddam ball from a cannon.....What you got to lose?
Rosa puts the wrap around Heidi.
Rosa: Keep it round you now.
Heidi: Why does my nakedness offend you so?
Rosa: You don’t know how much you need protecting, honey.