The ABC is billing Anne Edmonds’ new series The Edge of the Bush as “Australia’s first Scandi-noir comedy”.
That’s a rather unusual genre classification and perhaps difficult to imagine — particularly when you learn that the series is about a fallen calisthenics dynasty — but it’s the perfect description for what is a strangely surreal and moodily melodramatic comedy. Each episode only runs for about 12 minutes, which turns out to be about the perfect length for one of the most bizarre but satisfying comedies commissioned by the ABC in years.
Edmonds, who has been a fixture on Australia’s stand-up circuit since 2010, created and stars as four of the characters in the series. Until this point, her original and riotous comedy — built around a kind of frantic exasperation — has drawn a committed but relatively small audience.
It’s only now that her star is beginning to rise in a more public way, thanks to a series of brief appearances on TV shows. Most recently, Edmonds had a hilarious and uniquely Edmonds-esque guest spot on Get Krack!n as “fashion krackspert Helen Bidou”. She’s enlisted one of that show’s stars, Kate McCartney, as director on The Edge of the Bush.
In the first episode, the audience is introduced to four separate characters played by Edmonds, in what seem to be their own individual worlds. There’s Rebecca, a young woman living at home and hoping to become a singing sensation with the help of her webcam. There’s Dusty, a banjo-playing country singer with a tiny audience of superfans, who writes songs mostly about sheep. There’s Karen, a suburban mother hoping to save a calisthenics studio from closure. And finally there’s John, an old man who’s lost touch with his family and is being visited by a man from public health services.
At the end of the first episode, these four worlds all come crashing together when a viral video reveals something unexpected. Something happened to these characters, many, many years ago; something terrifying and unspeakable, at the edge of the bush.
Edmonds’ transformations are reminiscent of British character comedian Catherine Tate — particularly as John, who shares a rather similar look to Tate’s character Derek. But unlike Tate’s sketch show, The Edge of the Bush builds a consistent narrative and a wryly satirical tone.
It draws significant inspiration from the Scandi-noir style popularised TV shows such as The Bridge and The Killing, but satirises the genre by injecting a shot of Australiana right into its heart.
The series is full of wonderfully funny juxtapositions, with Edmonds’ bold and bright performance style consistently butting up against the sides of the mystery genre. She’s even placed calisthenics — which the audience learns is “a dynamic art form where gymnastics and dance come together and friendship and confidence are forged” — at the centre of the series.
Despite its intelligence and excellent performances, I can’t imagine The Edge of the Bush will please most audiences. It will probably develop a significant cult following, but many viewers will likely consider it too strange, too depressing, and lacking enough obvious punchlines.
But it’s a significant showcase for Edmonds’ talents, and delivers on originality. It’s entirely unlike anything else on an Australian TV network right now.
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