Breathing life into ancient and contemporary wisdom

6 February 2022

Whimsical yet powerful, Mother of Compost, is a show with ecological advice that’s worth hearing and heeding, says Nina Levy.

Mother of Compost, Noémie Huttner-Koros ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 5 February 2022 ·

“I know what it’s like to fall in love with chickens,” says artist and climate activist Noémie Huttner-Koros, talking about the latest in “a long line of avian love affairs”.

The chickens she’s referring to are rescue animals, saved from the horrors of battery farming and now living a life of relative freedom in a suburban backyard with Huttner-Koros and her house mates.

Their story is one of many that local artists Huttner-Koros (writer/performer), Andrew Sutherland (director/deviser) and Sam Nerida (dramaturg/producer) draw together in the one-woman show Mother of Compost. Like all the narrative strands of this work – variously autobiographical, queer, ancient, scientific – its relevance is personal and global, whimsical yet powerful.

Huttner-Koros must be in her mid-20s and when she initially invites us all to envisage ourselves as her mothers, she seems idealistic, even charmingly naïve. As Mother of Compost unfolds, however, it becomes clear that her invitation to see ourselves as part of a giant family is not a hippy fantasy but part of a plan to shift our thinking so we might ensure a habitable planet for our children.

Because as Huttner-Koros points out, babies born in 2022 are likely to experience global warming of three to six degrees in their lifetime. At the end of the third day of yet another heat-wave this summer, this feels especially unbearable.

But Huttner-Koros isn’t here to preach hopelessness.

Instead she takes us on a disco-styled ride through the life-cycle. Lyndon Blue’s sparkling electronic score complements Edwin Sitt’s glorious projections, which turn close-ups of cells, microbes and larger life-forms into lava-lamp style backdrops that transport us into a glittery world.

It’s punctuated with the words of ecologist and evolutionary biologist Joan Roughgarden and soil microbiologist Professor Lyn Abbott. Though it’s not always easy to hear the details, Huttner-Koros’s gyrations to Roughgarden’s description of “transsexual fish, hermaphroditic hyenas, non-monogamous birds” are a highlight, as is her slug-inspired mating dance.

She revels in her microbial subject matter with a relish that is contagious. As she hopes, her child-like joy inspires a response that can be best described as maternal.

And so when she slips in the hard truths – “microplastics in breast milk” is perhaps the most chilling – we feel protective.

She reaches into compost, into an ancient Talmudic tale with a contemporary conservationist message, into research by Aboriginal scholar Tyson Yunkaporta about how First Nations ways of thinking might address global crises.

And she draws out a common thread that could be the start of a plan to save our kids.

It’s a message that’s worth hearing and I highly recommend you do.

Mother of Compost continues at The Blue Room Theatre until 12 February 2022.

Pictured top is Noémie Huttner-Koros in ‘Mother of Compost’. Photo: Dan MacBride

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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