A conversation with Legs on the Wall Artistic Director Joshua Thomson - 29.08.18

NAISDA is proud to have a strong connection with thriving physical theatre company, Legs on the Wall, with many of our graduates going on to work with the company or participate in its unique artist development programs.

Two such artists are NAISDA graduates Kyle Shilling and Caleena Sainsbury who will both be starring in the company’s next major production, The Man with the Iron Neck, premiering at the Brisbane Festival on 27 September. (Tickets & info)

We caught up with Legs on the Wall Artistic Director, Joshua Thomson, to learn more about the upcoming production, his own personal connection to NAISDA and why he thinks that training organisations such as NAISDA are pivotal to the future of talent development in Australia.

Tell us a bit about Legs on the Wall:

Legs on the Wall is a company that was born on the streets of Sydney by independent artists wanting to make work together. Our productions come in a variety of formats, from outdoor spectacles to indoor theatre productions.

One thing that I would say that is unique about us, is that our stories and shows are a direct response to the site we are working on, whether that’s hanging from the side of a building or commanding an intimate stage.

Tell us a bit about the upcoming production, The Man with an Iron Neck:

The Man with an Iron Neck is the next major work from Legs on the Wall. It is a strong, powerful piece of work exploring the fragility of Indigenous issues, particularly male youth suicides and the impact of events such as colonisation on Indigenous communities.

While it focuses on Indigenous experiences, there are some very universal themes explored throughout – it is a story that anyone can relate to. At the end, we are left with a feeling of hope that we can help stop it from happening.

It is co-directed by a powerhouse team of Joshua Bond (Artistic Associate and Indigenous Programs Coordinator at Circus Oz and Artistic Producer of DJUKI MALA) and Gavin Robins (Movement Director of King Kong and Head of Movement at NIDA). The show is also lucky to have the wonderful Ursula Yovich, not only acting but also as playwright. This is her first time tackling something like this and she has done a fantastic job.

Promotional and rehearsal images from The Man with the Iron Neck. Images by Brett Boardman and Clare Hawley. 

Two NAISDA graduates star in the performance, Kyle Shilling and Caleena Sainsbury. Tell us about the relationship between Legs on the Wall and NAISDA:

My history with NAISDA goes back many years. I used to teach contemporary dance at NAISDA and have built a really strong personal relationship with NAISDA as a result of my time there. When I took on the Artistic Directorship of Legs on the Wall, I wanted to continue this relationship.

Because I’d had the opportunity to teach the Developing Artists, I knew that there were some great artists coming out of NAISDA. I actually taught Kyle Shilling during his first year at NAISDA, so it’s been particularly special to see him now as the lead in our upcoming production.

Legs on the Wall has an ongoing commitment to NAISDA to provide a platform for graduates to tell their stories. We have the Spark Residency Program which offers artists space to practice their craft and test ideas without the pressure of outcomes, and also the Leg Up Program, which gives fresh graduates the opportunity to participate in free workshops and use our facilities.

From your perspective, how important are training organisations such as NAISDA in cultivating new performers and artists?

I can’t express how important it is.

Companies the size of ours don’t have the support or resources to run a full schedule of performers and train our performers full-time like other larger companies might be able to do.

Places like NAISDA support and prepare young artists through three or four years of full-time training, and also connect their students to networks in the arts industry and with contacts such as myself.

It’s valuable to have those training facilities, particularly NAISDA as the flagship Indigenous training organisation. We need people to tell their stories, and if the way they want to do that is through dance, then that is fantastic.

NAISDA is currently seeking its next generation of artists and performers. Apply to study at NAISDA in 2019. Hurry, applications close 19 October 2018. Download the NAISDA online application pack here.