Delving into the historic story of gay law reform

“I WAS arrested for being gay before I’d even danced with another man,” Rodney Croome said.

For the first time, Tasmanian Theatre Company and Blue Cow Theatre – in association with If Theatre and Salamanca Arts Centre – are joining forces to produce the world premiere of the Tasmanian story of a campaign for gay law reform in the 1980s and 90s.

In 1988, more than 100 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 consulting adult males in private.

The arrests lit the spark for a campaign to change a law in Tasmania that was the strictest in the western world.

Written by award-winning playwright Campion Decent and directed by Matt Scholten, ‘The Campaign’ tells the historic and emotionally-charged story about real life events that changed Tasmania for the better.

Featuring the talents of Robert Jarman, Melissa King, Ben Winckle, Alex Duncan and Rosemary Cann, The Campaign is honest, raw and urgent.

Mr Decent said it was a story of community and people working together for change.

“I stand in awe of the courage and conviction of the people in this play, and the countless others who stood beside them in real life,” he said.

Drawing on the verbatim theatre form, The Campaign has an authenticity and direct link to the intricacies and personal stories behind the larger events.

Acting as a touchstone for human rights violations worldwide, this story is regularly cited in international human rights cases.

However, outside Tasmania, it remains a little-known victory.

“From the moment I heard the story of the struggles for gay law reform in Tasmania stemming from the Salamanca Market arrests, I knew this was a stirring tale of peaceful grassroots activism,” Mr Scholten, If Theatre artistic director and creative producer, said.

“It is a story that truly defined a community, one that inspired and fascinated me and that could be told with great passion, emotion and theatricality.

“I am truly delighted to have had the opportunity to work with Campion Decent on this magnificent and important play.”

The Campaign will open at the Peacock Theatre on Monday 22 October, coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the first arrest at Salamanca.

It will run until Saturday 3 November and bookings can be made through www.tastheatre.com.

Caption: Rodney Croome being arrested at Salamanca Market in 1988. Photo credit: Roger Lovell.