SIREN THEATRE CO
In 1972, the body of a murdered lecturer floats in the River Torrens, a young woman escapes a lobotomy to ‘cure’ her sexuality, and a single mum struggles to find her place in a society, which brands her as ‘abnormal’.
CAMP, a new play by Elias Jamieson Brown (Green Park), welcomes you to the punk lands of the 1970s, and the birth of Australia's fierce gay rights movement.
CAMP chronicles the struggles, successes, and legacy of early Pride activists who risked family, careers, and imprisonment to achieve social change in Australia.
Past and present collide in a dramatised retelling of the 1970s events which lead to the 1978 Mardi Gras. Love, laughter, and celebration!!!
Producer, Director: Kate Gaul
Associate Producer: Robyn Kennedy
Associate Director: Hayden Tonazzi
Movement Director: Emily Ayoub
Production Designer: Angelina Meany
Lighting, Video Designer: Morgan Moroney
Composer, Sound Designer: Jessica Dunn
Stage Manager: Emma Maloney
ASM: Lana Filies
Photography: Alex Vaughan
What the critics say:
"CAMP is the theatrical highlight of Sydney Mardi Gras 2023 and Sydney WorldPride ... Under Kate Gaul’s masterful direction, the actors give powerful performances which convincingly follow their personal journeys through shame and oppression to the realisation that they do not have to accept such injustice. From a tiny crew of disparate personalities, a movement was born that galvanised change in the unlikeliest of circumstances.... passionate, funny and sometimes heartbreaking performances remind us of what the human spirit can achieve if we only dare to believe." Paul Chan, Whatshejustsaid
"Kate Gaul artfully directs her ensemble of seven performers through short, funny and often tumultuous scenes, notably when the first flush of success is over and campaigners face abuse and violent attacks. The documentary form returns with tearful impact when the actors read that list of the 50 real protesters, whose details were printed by the Sydney Morning Herald after their arrest at that first 1978 Mardi Gras. Some were with us in that audience." Martin Portus, Stage Whipsers
"A strong ensemble adds the emotional depth to bring the story to life. I was blown away by Jane Phegan’s performance as the younger Krissy. Earthy, nuanced, she embodied some the 70s lesbian activist stereotypes, while also filling the cracks with real humanity and character. Tamara Natt and Genevieve Moody nailed performances as the younger and older Jo, the emotional spine of the play. Around them, the whole cast brings their A-game. Vitally, CAMP starts to plug a conspicuous gap in exploring Australia’s national queer story. Australia’s own history of Pride is as complex and fraught as many other nations, & it’s almost shameful that most Aussies, myself included, know more about the LGBTQ+ history of the United States or the UK than about Australia’s own." Chad Armstrong, The Queer Review
"Quick witted and comical, but also deeply moving and, at times, harrowing, CAMP carries a powerful political message and a warning to learn from our past. In this period of deep political and social fissures, it is an invitation to reflect on what kind of society we want to be." Sarah Liversidge, Arts Hub
"Director Kate Gaul creates a journalistic atmosphere ... the result is a rich, visual composite of an eventful timeline that makes older and younger audiences cognisant of Australia’s all-too-recent (and shocking) past. Was discrimination really that bad? In this country? It’s unfathomable viewing but objectively true.CAMP eschews preachiness but is humanely relatable which gives it a powerful voice. It’s a commendable, worthy production that shines a light on our troubled history and celebrates the movement’s ongoing social and political advocacy during Sydney WorldPride." Olivia Farag, Sydney Theatre Reviews
"This is big, bold, inspiring theatre, with a very human heart." Paul Gilchrist, Theatre Red
"Director Kate Gaul charges the piece with a ratbag energy reflecting the times ... the tensions between the political and the personal are very well captured and Gaul’s cast delivers strongly ..." Jason Blake, Limelight Magazine
"The action takes place on a raised stage, designed by Angelina Meany, that looks something like those you’d find in a community hall, and is built entirely of wood. A single table and an assortment of mismatched mid-century chairs create television studios, radio stations, C.A.M.P. meeting rooms, and slower, tableau moments of protest (directed exquisitely by movement director Emily Ayoub). A wooden arch that curves above the stage is the backdrop for video design by Morgan Moroney, which uses archival footage from the documentary film Witches and Faggots, Dykes and Poofters to help create a protest that feels larger than the seven actors on stage. Combined with stylistic cues like flannelette shirts, protest badges, cardboard slogan signs (“Lesbians are Lovely!”), paisley flares and subtle white/yellow lighting – all of this brings a scruffy, DIY air to CAMP that is comfortingly familiar to those of us who’ve sat in a sweaty university classroom discussing how best to divide resources for a protest (even as recently as the campaign for marriage equality)." Charlotte Smee, Timeout
"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." Suzy Wrong,, Suzy Goes See
" ...directed by Kate Gaul ... gives the play a verbatim, documentary flavour. Actors address us, the audience, in their exchanges, for example, rather than each other, which somehow compounds a sense of historical authenticity." John Shand, SMH
Rehearsal and Production Photography by Alex Vaughan
“The stories told in the play are about the lives of our community elders – as they lived them in the pioneer days of our movement. CAMP focuses on the role of women in our Pride movement. The stories of women have been neglected despite being the backbone of our history as a community. Women did all the behind the scenes work in organisations like CAMP NSW (Campaign Against Moral Persecution) while simultaneously educating men about the links between homophobia and feminism. It was lesbians who were in the vanguard of the women’s movement, who nursed gay men in the AIDS ward at St Vincent’s Hospital and set up women’s refuges and rape crisis centres. It was lesbians who led the charge at the first Mardi Gras and who were targeted by Police.
Women have been all but absent in published records of Pride history in Australia, which have invariably been told from a male perspective. There is a resulting gap in knowledge about the experiences of lesbians and how these shaped the development of the Pride movement. “Robyn Kennedy, 78er and former secretary of CAMP NSW
Robyn Kennedy (Associate Producer) is the co-author of "CAMP: Australia’s pioneer homosexual rights activists". Robyn commissioned Elias Jamieson Brown to write a play drawing on the inspiring stories of former CAMP activists captured in the book.
The play commission is supported by the NSW office for the arts through Create NSW