Review: The Campaign

One fraction of Australia’s shameful legacy

By Owen James

The 80’s and 90’s were tumultuous times for the LGBTQI community worldwide, as social movements fighting for equality came to a head for many Western countries. The Campaign focuses on the activism efforts of the Tasmanian Gay Law Reform Group to extinguish the particularly nocuous laws prevalent in Tasmania – criminalising gay sexual activity between consenting adults with a potential sentence of 21 years imprisonment (much higher than the prison term for rape or armed robbery).

This piece of verbatim theatre plays out like a gripping documentary, keeping us riveted throughout as its two-decade historical journey is condensed into a neat and expeditious ninety minutes. Detailed direction by Peter Blackburn succeeds in bringing the many layers of Campion Decent’s text to realistic but theatricalised life, highlighting the joy in each small victory along the way. Blackburn makes the most of the small studio space at Gasworks, utilising intricate lighting and use of simple but effective props and set pieces to keep us engaged and connected to the story throughout. Occasional musical moments act as effective punctuation and give the storytelling a boost at crucial moments.

Emotionally-charged performances from the cast of five ground the theatricalisation of these terrifying events that took place. Their collective depictions of their dozens of real-world counterparts are often highly realistic, creating many moving and rightfully upsetting moments. This focused and balanced ensemble are lead by a sensitive and natural performance from Patrick Livesey as Rodney Croome, who remains brave and loyal across the decades. He is one to watch. The four other extremely strong performances come from Claire Sara, Ally Fowler, Ben Stuart, and Ben Noble (who has the most fun as various politicians and left-wing extremist caricatures).

Don’t miss this compelling and fascinating history lesson of our country’s shameful recent draconian past (arguably in part also a disturbing reflection on the recent campaign for marriage equality), with a heartwarming triumph above adversity that hits close to home.

This important entry for Midsumma runs until 1st February at Gasworks.

Image courtesy of Gasworks