It was Mardi Gras Fair day, when I headed to New Theatre. The streets were filled with clusters of people – long legged drag queens, petite men with stripey shirts, men holding hands, rainbow colours, music. The Sydney Mardi Gras putting it’s best foot forward with an array of outdoors activities. It wasn’t long before the surprising Sydney swelter gave way to a slick afternoon storm, and I had worried about slipping on the street in my heels as I scampered to the show.

Inside the foyer – friends cluster and chatter. Sunday afternoons are full of relaxed friends, slightly pinked from the sun. Within moments of collecting my tickets, cast from the show appear in the foyer. They mingle and chat with us – I am greeted by cast members Mark Dessaix and Douglas Hansell – a delight amplified by the charm and ease of the performers and also as I am fans of their work. They introduce me to fellow actor Daniel Scott – also charming. I am told – in the spirit of Mnouchkine’s belief that the performer connects with their community – this show, at this time in this place – this is particularly appropriate.

The Temperamentals is a docu-drama – following the formation of the Mattachine Society and the long-standing love affair between two of it’s co-founders Harry Hay and Rudy Gernreich. Written by American playwright Jon Marans in 2009, this is a story of epic conviction, epic love and grand ambition for social justice. Though the epicentre of the story takes place in the 1950s, we are still feeling the tremors of this movement.

‘Temperamental’ a slang term for “homosexual”, sits quietly amongst other more derogatory or now passionately reclaimed words and it is not without it’s judgement. Despite much of the outwardly flamboyant and fun aspects of the gay community’s presence in Sydney, we live in a country where gay marriage is not recognized by the law, where there is still instances of gay- bashings and attempts by some churches to “cleanse” or “heal” gay people of their “tenancies.” There is an undeniable inequality in the treatment and recognition of gay relationships in Australia one which I believe is soon to be over thrown.

Mr Jackson writes of the importance of community and mentors in his director’s note. This is probably one of the most personal director’s notes I have read in some time – revealing a personal passion and context to the work – a note which inspires a deeper connection to the ambitions of mounting this work here and now.

What is most powerful about this production is the invitation from cast and director to be invested in the story – and thereby the cause. And what cause am I referring to? The cause I believe unequivocally in: for all people to be free in their expression of love.

Mr Jackson’s staging is tight and tidy – with neat, crisp costumes a suave uniform which allows the performers to shape shift across characters and genders, aided by an indicative accessory or prop. It is an economical presentation – without clutter – requesting us to sit forward – imagine more. The performances are good all round – and nice to see a mix of training institutions are represented and very evenly handled by Mr Jackson, as one would expect from such an accomplished director and educator. There is nothing shocking, nor forced in this production – the message and the acting is out front and centre and is unapologetic about it’s agenda. As it should be.

Though surrounded by Tom Bannerman’s suave silver and black set, complimented by Nate Edmonson’s Sound Design and Brenda Hartley’s Lights, the performers shine the brightest – all successfully wrangling the rainbow of American accents. For me, I was quite taken by Mark Dessaix’s performance – powerful, committed and concise – and though I have enjoyed Dessaix’s stage work previously – this was a particularly masterful performance. Additionally, performances by Ben McIvor and Brett Rogers compliment the ensemble with some sturdy voice work, and to cap it all off, the lovers played by Douglas Hansell and Daniel Scott create a dynamic and passionate partnership on stage equally matched: eye to eye, toe to toe – voice to voice.

It is a pleasure to behold the work of these artists – for at all times I felt they were in control of their performance – but more than that, deeply connected and invested in the message. As it should be.

Such a refreshingly taut piece of theatre – and one that despite being programmed as a part of the Sydney Mardi Gras Festival, does not see the need to bare all in order to sell tickets. And if you are after a bit of visual tickling, this isn’t the show for you. This show is designed to draw you in, ask you to reflect on what you would do to stand up for what you believe in – it asks you to recognise the work and the risk offered this far and asks you to find your own courage to face injustice. And that, is a huge and beautiful responsibility that we as a society must face – and that is the liberation of love.

Previous Mardi Gras shows have found me wanting: disappointed in the often crass ways in which gay-themed plays are marketed to the gay community – and finally, FINALLY here is a show which is pitched for the intelligent punter – one that wants quality theatrical craft, not merely flesh and titilation.

And I will, as I do every Mardi Gras, remember my dear Uncle Greg who passed away in 1997 from an AIDS related illness. A very special man, with a wild sense of the theatrical, and a wardrobe full of dresses he made himself and a penchant for fluffy ducks… who is, and always will be, very much missed.