The Campaign, written by Campion Decent and directed by Peter Blackburn, is a wonderful work of theatre that exists in an engaging Venn Diagram space where the circles for creative non-fiction and verbatim theatre overlap.
The press release states the premise best: “In 1988 more than one hundred arrests were made at Salamanca Market when the Tasmanian Gay Law Reform Group defied a ban on a stall that featured petitions to decriminalise sexual activity between consenting adult males in private. The arrests lit the spark for a campaign to change a law in Tasmania that was the most draconian in the Western world in terms of its penalty and, by the time of its repeal, the last of its kind in Australia.”
Employing a theatrical cornucopia of techniques and devices, the cast – Patrick Livesey, Claire Sara, Ally Fowler, Ben Stuart, and Ben Noble – do a marvellous job at telling this story. Camp and vaudeville sit alongside vitriolic quotes and recollections of abuse from police and right-wing politicians. Sometimes, the play lampoons these figures; at others their words and actions are described without commentary, a stark reminder of their abhorrent nature.
Another compelling touch is while the audience are entertained as well as engaged throughout by the years-long fight to repeal playing out in front of them, Decent’s script never lets us forget smaller moments of personal cost. This is recent history involving real people and not everyone, or every relationship, made it through unscathed.
In moving coda, the play ends with television footage from the time as well as glimpses of the fight for equal rights still being undertaken by the LGBTQIA+ community in other countries. The Campaign is a a well-balanced retelling of history that is both testimonial as well as a celebration.
Studio Theatre – Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham Street, Albert Park
Performance: Friday 24 January 2020
Season continues to 1 February 2020
For more information, visit: www.midsumma.org.au for details.
Image: Claire Sara, Ben Stuart, Patrick Livesey, Ally Fowler and Ben Noble feature in The Campaign – photo by Jack Dixon-Gunn
Review: David Collins