Arts Review Singapore Theatre

★★★☆☆ Review: Mother of Compost by Noémie Huttner-Koros

An invitation to ponder over the future of families in the anthropocene.

CategoryScore (out of 10)
Direction (Andrew Sutherland)7
Script (Noémie Huttner-Koros)7
Performance (Noémie Huttner-Koros)8
Audiovisual Design (Edwin Sitt)6
Lighting Design (Jasmine Lifford)7
Costume Design (Molly Werner)7
Stage Design (Molly Werner)6
Sound Design (Lyndon Blue)8
Total54/80 (68%)
Final Score:★★★☆☆

Noémie Huttner-Koros loves babies. But rather than finding and marrying a man and forming a ‘traditional’ family, the Australian non-binary artist has instead found themselves looking towards queer forms of family as their model instead. And in their work Mother of Compost, we as the audience are invited to come together and join in as part of this temporal found family, questioning what it means to form a household in a dying world.

Directed by Andrew Sutherland, Mother of Compost begins with a personal welcome from Noémie, as they bring in the audience one group at a time, learning our names. To bring us further into that familial fold, we’re also asked to help out around the ‘house’, helping sweep up the leaves in the ‘backyard’ onstage before the show begins. It’s a non-obligatory, simple action that opens up the potential for interaction and conversation with fellow audience members, and as the last leaf is swept up, we get to our seats, feeling a sense of togetherness and camaraderie at preparing the space together.

What follows can only be described as a raucous party, simultaneously outrageous, educational and sobering. Dressed in an earthy, oversized shirt, work boots and latex gloves, Noémie feels ready to get to work. As a fringe show, Noémie is incredibly forthcoming in her interactions with us, telling us about the origins of this work, where COP15 turned out to be a bust, and the devastating effects of the 2019 bushfires wrecked the country. What is clear then is that the ways we have been trying to combat climate change are unreliable, or at least, the government we have trusted to do so, and in response to that, the answer might be queer.

Noémie proceeds to bring us into a fever dream of a sequence, as the BPM increases, and they begin stripping down to their undergarments. They read a quote about the queerness of nature by evolutionary biologist Joan Roughgarden, before audience members are asked to repeat that quote in various tones, In so doing, we contribute to this almost ritual-like procedure where we recognise the queer structures that exist in nature we can learn from, deviating from the norm to find new ways of living and being.

This is by far the most exciting and engaging segment of the production, and we feel invigorated and energised, as if we’re on the cusp of a revolution, cheering Noémie and our fellow audience members on (at one point, a volunteer even gamely performs a bizarre slug mating ritual with Noémie). There is a celebration of the queer, the weird, and the wild, and the future looks hopeful for us as we smile and watch on. With a cheeky smile, Noémie eats some fruit before tossing the remains into the composter onstage, and along with leaves gathered from the piles we swept up, they activate the machine, spinning it faster and faster until we reach the climax – an explosive spillage of new fruit born from waste.

However, Noémie then brings the energy down significantly in the remainder of the show, as they shift to more sobering topics, recalling their own childhood stories and experiences. The dip in energy and mood is somewhat sudden and affects the flow and pacing built up by the crescendo of the first half, while the projections onto the screen are fuzzy and hard to make out at times, adding to a soporific effect.

When Noémie speaks, we are led to think of the darkness and destruction of bringing a child into the world, to care for life, and the responsibility that entails. Fear is the mind killer, but that is precisely why we must develop a mindset and practice of mutual trust and care for each other as fellow human beings. Throughout the performance, Noémie leads us in a mantra, where we acknowledge ourselves as both mothers and children of each other. Therein lies Mother of Compost‘s ultimate message – to view the bright, hopeful possibilities we glimpsed at the start, we must learn that we are all each other’s family, and find solace in harnessing the power of communal care, the world as the necessary village to raise the children of the present and the future.

Photo Credit: Edwin Sitt

Mother of Compost ran from 4th to 6th January 2023 at the Esplanade Theatre Studio as part of M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2023. More information available here

The M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2023 runs from 4th to 15th January 2023 across various venues. Tickets and full lineup available here

1 comment on “★★★☆☆ Review: Mother of Compost by Noémie Huttner-Koros

  1. Pingback: Review: Dia Hakim on Mother of Compost by Noémie Huttner-Koros (M1 Singapore Fringe Festival) – Critics Circle Blog

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