The Bush

Aug 19 2022 | By More

★★★★☆     Inviting

Summerhall (Venue 26): Tues 16 – Sun 28 Aug 2022
Review by Hugh Simpson

The Bush, Alice Mary Cooper’s one-hander at Summerhall, tells of domestic and political life in 1970s Australia, detailing the accidental birth of the environmental movement in a way that is diverting and informative.

The focus is Kelly’s Bush, an area of land by Sydney’s Parramatta River, that was saved from development by a ‘group of housewives’ (as they were referred to at the time and in the show).

Alice Mary Cooper in The Bush. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic

Their efforts inspired many, including Petra Kelly, the founder of the German Green Party.

There is an openness and humour here that chimes with the storyline’s implications – that activism is not the preserve of a select few, but something anyone can be involved in.

The production is certainly carrying through its intentions with a ‘carbon-light’ approach to touring, reaching community gardens by bike, on foot and by public transport, prior to the Summerhall run. This, however – like the dedication to the First Nations people who were the guardians of the land long before colonisation – is not unduly stressed, and seems a natural part of the approach.

In the same way, the elements of the production that scream ‘1970s’ – Emily Goodwin’s costumes, references to pavlovas, prawn cocktails and Tupperware – are humorously deployed rather than being the glaring features some theatre makers would be unable to avoid making them.

deceptively light touch

Indeed, much of the staging is done with a deceptively light touch. Valerie Reid’s apparently thrown together set; Laila Noble’s direction, carefully designed to appear spontaneous; the part of the narrative expressed through the medium of Jazzercise – all of these help to contribute to a thoroughly good-humoured, accessible performance.

There is a commendably high level of skill involved, too. Not just from those mentioned above and Niroshini Thambar and Nik Paget-Tomlinson’s sound design, but most obviously from Cooper herself.

The unfussy differentiation of characters, the clear way the story is put across without stressing any moral, the inviting nature of the performance – all of these are like a more grown-up version of the best children’s theatre.

Like the women it describes, this show may seem low-key, but has got its priorities right and has considerable reach.

Running time: One hour (no interval)
Summerhall (Demonstration Room), 1 Summerhall, EH 9 1PL (venue 26)
Tuesday 16 – Sunday 28 August 2022
Daily (not Mon 22) at 15:00
Information and tickets Book here.

Facebook: @alicemarycooperartist
Twitter: @alicemarycooper


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