Review By Adam Stepfner
Croome v Tasmania remains one of the most iconic Australian legal battles, fighting for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Tasmania, and paved the way for LGBTQI+ rights nationally. The Campaign by Campion Decent follows the real stories of those who contributed to the Croome v Tasmania case, their hardships, their triumphs, the strength of community and the fight for equality. Directed by Kim Hardwick and featuring performances by Simon Croker, Mathew Lee, Madeline McRea, Tim McGarry and Jane Phegan, The Campaign shows us what happens when passion and politics collide, and how social change is an absolutely vital part of our forever changing society.
Campion Decent's piece follows a group of important contributors in the Croome v Tasmania battle, who tell their stories and share their experiences during the decade long campaign, and all the way into our modern day society. Presented in a Brechtian style, Decent forces you to think and question the topics being spoken about on stage. The entire piece is played at the audience, a fantastic choice for this piece as it felt almost like you were in conversation with the actors. The casual vibe on stage worked very well, as the actors lead us into the story rather than screaming it at us. Director Kim Hardwick works with this piece so well. She creates a show (which could have been incredibly boring) that is engaging and interesting on stage without compromising the integrity of these real stories. Her transitions between moments are incredible, and seemingly effortless as stories flow from one to another without a worry, even bringing in large musical numbers, dance sequences and having actors move the set while on stage, it all worked together harmoniously. She uses her actors well as they share these real stories, merging verbatim and theatricality and yet, not a beat is missed. She gives the actors space. Rather than "playing a character" it felt like watching real people talk on stage, a perfect choice for the style and context of this piece. Kim Hardwick does the stories justice, and the show is absolutely brilliant, brought to life through her vision.
Mathew Lee and Simon Croker were fantastic as the couple who became "the face of the campaign." They share incredible intimacy as we hear about how the political battle became a barrier for their relationship. Aided by wonderful work from Madelaine McRea, Tim McGarry and Jane Phegan, everyone is at the top of their game in this ensemble piece. Tim McGarry plays multiple big characters, changing voice and physicality to make each and every one distinct. Jane Phegan gives a heartwarming tale as Beverly Croome, the mother of Mathew Lee's Rodney Croome. The 5 actors work so wonderfully together I don't really think there's just one stand-out performer. They all have great solo moments, but it's the work of them as an ensemble, guided by Kim's direction that makes this piece so great.
Martin Kinanne's lighting and production design is excellent, with a simple set, able to move around the stage quite easily, Projection is used to state the year/event at any given time, put up on a wall of white sails which adds a great texture to the space. His lighting is perfect in this piece and he uses his expertise to really create a vibe on stage, whether it be during a somber monologue, or a wild and crazy clubbing scene, he knows exactly what needs to be done. Patrick Howard's sound aided the performances, with original composition also playing a part in this production.
The Campaign speaks on the truth of our nation, and the battle that made us who we are today, and it's a victory for Kim Hardwick and the entire team. I'd highly recommend this show to anyone who knows about the case, or even if you don't, it's just a fantastic production. These stories must be seen and heard and brought to the stages of Australia, because although Croome v Tasmania was a huge revelation in the acceptance of the LGBTQI+ community, discrimination still remains an issue to this day. The Campaign presented by White Box Theatre plays at the Seymour Centre until February 28, and if you're in Sydney it's a must-see production.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.