Thursday, 23 January 2020

The Campaign - Midsumma Festival review

It's difficult to fathom that up until 1997, being gay in Tasmania could land someone in jail for a longer term than a rapist or an armed robber. Written by Campion Decent, The Campaign covers a nine-year period during which the Tasmanian gay community battled against the Government in order to be allowed to live their lives free of persecution for no other reason than loving someone of the same sex. 

In 1988, the Tasmanian Gay Law Reform Group defied a ban at Salamanca Market that prevented them from having a stall on decriminalising sexual activity between consenting adults. This resulted in over 100 arrests and consequently led to the final push to change the Tasmanian law. Based on personal testimonies, parliamentary transcripts, media reports and archival sources from the people involved, Decent presents a script that is factual and accurate but not stuck in simply retelling the events. In 90 minutes, he finds the most relevant and pivotal moments of this crusade while giving distinctive voices to those we are introduced to, including LGBTQ rights activists Rodney Croome and Nick Toonen and politician Christine Milne, and allowing their personalities to come through.

The ensemble - Ally Fowler, Patrick Livesey, Ben Noble, Claire Sara and Ben Stuart - are in fine form as they portray multiple people and commit to each one with equal conviction and truth, no matter how fleetingly they appear. Noble in particular stands out in his skillful switching from outspoken homophobic hate-sputtering politician to a gay man fighting to just be. Livesey also impresses with his performance of Rodney Croome, demonstrating his courage and vulnerability with some beautifully restrained scenes that pack a huge emotional response. 

Peter Blackburn's direction firmly puts the audience in a position to grasp the frustrations, defeats, determination and ultimate success of this community by knowing when to give the dialogue time to breathe, float through the air and hit us in the heart, and when it needs to be rapidly fired out. The constant movement of the cast lets the story gather momentum without overwhelming us with an onslaught of information. The handful of short musical numbers interspersed in the production allows us to collect our thoughts and sit with what we are learning and not feel like we have to move on before we're ready. 

It is impossible not to be emotionally affected by what you witness and learn in The Campaign. It's an important reminder of the progress we have made and an acknowledgement of the struggles that many had to go through. Shows like The Campaign don't come around too often, and when they do, we owe it to those who fought for our acceptance to ensure that what they did is not forgotten.

Click here for my interview with Campion Decent.

SHOW DETAILS 

Venue: Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham St, Albert Park 
Season: until 1 February | Wed - Sat 9:00pm, Sat 4:00pm
Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Conc 
Bookings: Midsumma Festival 

Image Credits: Jack Dixon-Gunn

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