Whatever Floats Your Boat (2010) channeled Mary Ann Bugg, feminist and wife of Frederick Ward aka the infamous Australian bushranger Captain Thunderbolt.
Ward was serving his second sentence at Cockatoo Island Jail for stealing horses, folklore says Bugg frequently swam to the island with food for Ward. On the night of 11th September 1863 it is said that Ward escaped by swimming to Balmain and it is believed that Mary Ann swam to the island with a metal file to cut through his chains. The police were slow admitting there was a breakout as no one had ever escaped from Cockatoo Island before.
The fugitives headed north towards the Uralla area, where Ward became known as the bushranger Captain Thunderbolt. In the case of Mary Ann, it is said she is responsible for Frederick Ward being at large for so long as she would dress in men’s clothing and ride into a town to check for police, if the coast was clear she would ride out and pick him up. At a time when most women were subjugated to a life of raising kids and crops Mary Ann was a true feminist. Bugg was given the nickname “Black Mary” due to her Aboriginal heritage.
Whatever Floats Your Boat culminated in a performance in a hand made canoe I built during a 6 month A.R.P. residency in an ex-boat building shed on the island. The boat, Black Mary, named in honour of Mary Ann Bugg, had its maiden voyage when rowed to Balmain, where the audience picnicked on an above cliff and watched the performative escape from Cockatoo Island.