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Caught in the Anthropocene: Theatres of Trees, Place and Politics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 February 2022


This article investigates live performance in the broad geo-historical context of the Anthropocene, a contested term in recent scholarship, but one that offers a breadth of focus on human relations with its coexistent non-human other. These interrelations are examined through a range of theatrical and non-theatrical genres and sites from the Australian parliament's coal theatrics to exemplary performances by Indigenous companies Bangarra Dance Theatre and Marrugeku. It sets the scene with a visit to the Curtain Tree in the rainforests of north Queensland, Australia, arguing that the vitality and display of its root system models a special kind of reciprocity between the performative elements of the environment and the environmental elements of theatre and performance. This is traced through recent short-run immersive works, Hanna Cormick's Mermaid (2020) and Melinda Hetzel and Company's Conservatory (2020), and a rereading of a canonical Australian drama, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll.

Copyright © International Federation for Theatre Research 2022

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23 Will Higgenbotham, ‘Blackbirding: Australia's History of Luring, Tricking and Kidnapping Pacific Islanders’, ABC, 17 September 2017, at, accessed 18 July 2021. For a postcolonial analysis of the play see Russell McDougall, ‘Sugar, Land and Belonging: Summer of the Seventeenth Doll and No Sugar’, Australasian Drama Studies, 38, 1 (2001), pp. 58–65.

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