Venue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Feb 15 – Mar 4, 2023
Playwright: Elias Jamieson Brown
Director: Kate Gaul
Cast: Adriano Cappelletta, Anni Finsterer, Genevieve Mooy, Jane Phegan, Lou McInnes, Sandie Eldridge, Tamara Natt
Images by Alex Vaughan
Elias Jamieson Brown’s CAMP tells the 50-year story of a Sydney based queer activism group, Campaign Against Moral Persecution. Comprising mainly of women, the group aims to bring social and legislative progress for Australian gays and lesbians. A pastiche of anecdotes, chronicling the coalition’s achievements, as well as the many details of their personal lives, the play is an important documentation of the LGBTQIA+ movement, especially of key events in the formative decade of the 1970s.
More intimate sections of the writing, provide an opportunity for greater appreciation for the individuals and their sacrifices during those challenging years. CAMP is perhaps not as emotional an experience as one would expect, from a show that is entirely about reminiscences and nostalgia. We can certainly recognise the gravity of its narrative, but the work remains strangely unaffecting, perhaps due to its earnest desire to cover too much ground.
Production design by Angelina Meany evokes the wistful charm of community halls, where meaningful gatherings have taken place on this land for many generations. Morgan Moroney’s lights help us navigate the many shifts in time, making it clear whenever the plot takes a turn, and conveying distinct changes in mood and tone. Sound and music by Jessica Dunn are ambitiously rendered, for thorough transformations of time and space, as CAMP takes us through the many valuable and varying facets of these activists’ lives.
Directed by Kate Gaul, the production is consistent in its representations of the passions behind the politics; the noble intentions are always evident and admirable. The ensemble cast is appropriately enthusiastic, in their depictions of personalities who had fought for the betterment of society. Scenes tend to be brief, in a show that has a lot to talk about, but characters feel nonetheless deeply explored, by actors who demonstrate strong levels of commitment.
Without a concern for legacy, one will likely struggle to find guiding principles that will shape a good life. Without courage, existence can only be one of passivity, in adherence to rules and conventions that are likely to have been established in the interest of others. Understanding the nature of the greater good, that the rising tide lifts all boats, will prevent any person from falling into an insular despondency, that has become so characteristic of these times. Not all of us have to be warriors, but the fighting spirit, as exemplified by our queer leaders, is essential in preventing time on earth from going to waste.