A while back my dissatisfaction with urban life reached its peak, so I packed my bags, and wrote a play.
Up to that point, I’d had a love-hate relationship with Sydney. It’s a challenging place; the sound-scape of sirens and jackhammers is ubiquitous, the traffic impossible and the trains worse. I fantasised about running away to the country, to some rugged plateau or pristine valley, where I could bask in the silence and breathe more oxygen than carbon dioxide.
I’m not alone in dreaming of a tree-change. There’s a huge market out there for escaping Sydney. Hundreds of women are reading rural romances while they wait for their monthly subscription of Country Style to arrive; thousands of viewers tune in weekly to watch chef-turned-sustainable-farmer, Paul West, build his River Cottage dream in Central Tilba. I have to admit I’m part of that market.
I’ve spent hours online gazing longingly at stunning photographs of ideal country properties, imagining life in an old farm house in the Clare Valley or an eco friendly cabin in the Byron Bay hinterland. But the internet is a strange lucky dip. Tucked in amongst weatherboard cottages, renovated homesteads and converted barns, I discovered a link to guerrilla gardening. I was intrigued. My fantasy move to the country definitely included a veggie patch but this was offering a whole world more.
Turns out guerrilla gardening is a movement that emerged out of New York City when absentee landlords fenced off their vacant lots. This inspired the city’s green guerrillas to turn rejection into advantage. They created small balls of seeds and soil – seed bombs – and hurled them over the fences that were keeping them out. And so they illicitly transformed unused private property into food forests and flower festivals.
And others, like Gangsta Gardener Ron Finley, in South Central LA, began growing veggies on verges. His motivation? Wanting his community to eat better in a suburb where “the drive thru is killing people faster than the drive by.” These underground horticulturalists do most of their unauthorised cultivation at night, which made me wonder if my own urban jungle was home to some secretive sect.
Suddenly the city was exciting again. Perhaps there was possibility in the roar of leaf blowers or the crowds on my daily commute. And that’s how Kat, the main character in Seed Bomb, was born.
Kat hates living in the city and dreams of moving to a pretty cottage in the country. The city makes her sleepwalk. That’s how she meets the bike riding anarchist guerrilla gardeners that are re-wilding her inner Sydney suburb. And, as she joins these urban warriors on their clandestine night time activities, the sleep walking stops and her political awakening begins.
This is a play about identity; who we are and how we live in this city. It’s a play about the wildness that exists on our own doorstep. It’s a play about hope.
I chose the theatrical form because theatre is, by definition, not a running away; it’s a coming together. And I chose to write comedy because I believe it’s empowering. Laughing at the ridiculousness around us allows us to step out of it and suddenly see things differently. And drama, with its diversity of voices and ideas, is the ideal medium to examine the tension between our desire for a quiet world and the necessity for engagement in the real world. Theatre is an art form that insists on collaboration, so it’s perfect for exploring how to live in a city where we are rarely alone, and for telling tales that inspire us to re-connect.