FORM Dance Projects and Riverside Theatres are presenting the exciting double bill, Above Ground. The dance production presents physical theatre company Legs on the Wall’s Cat’s Cradle, which will be performed alongside Kathryn Puie’s Soft Prosthetics and Metal Gods. What defines Cat’s Cradle is its exploration of the complexity of space and form through physical movement which incorporates both mechanical and human apparatus. Led by Joshua Thomson, Artistic Director of Legs on the Wall, the performance asks the audience to grapple with the exciting yet dangerous concept of risk.
While Thomson has been brewing the production for a few years, Thomson recognises that there is little that is predictable about the performance.
“It is a work that looks at how far risk can be pushed until it becomes unsafe, or that dance between where it’s fun and where it tips over into danger.”
If you think this feeling sounds familiar, that’s probably because it is. Thomson’s performed physical risk transcends mere physicality, and reflects the complex balancing act of risk in relationships. More specifically, Cat’s Cradle explores the risk involved in intimate relationships, when navigating each other’s sexual needs. The subjective categorisation of sexual exploration as risky is represented through an “exciting and invigorating space”, which transcends potential boundaries to intimacy. It is not only the setting that portrays this tension within intimacy, but the characterisation of the performers, which Thomson describes as contrasting characters, that show “one revelling in risk, and the other being a bit apprehensive”.
In juxtaposing these approaches to risk, Thomson investigates the struggle for understanding within relationships. Relationships balance a yearning for deepening understandings of each other and individual desires, which is represented through a couple “who each crave more, and push each other’s limits,” as Thomson describes. As such, the barriers of our own subjectivities come into play. In craving closeness, Thomson notes how we can become clouded by our own misguided understandings of the relationship. Risk is therefore always subjective, and Thomson personally experiences this in his own physical performance domain.
“The thing about risk is that people project their own understandings of themselves onto other people, so they might perceive something as risky that isn’t at all. As a performer, I do things that people warn me against, but they are projecting their own capability onto me, as I know the edge of my own capability,” Thomson describes.
It is clear that Thomson’s performance background informs the very physical representation of risk in Cat’s Cradle. With over 100 ropes webbing the theatre, Thomson quite literally brings risk into question. He asks: what are the extents of risk; and in doing so, explores its paradoxically emancipating and entrapping affects. Describing this rope-enshrined setting, Thomson said, “it can become this thing that entangles you but also this thing that can free you in that way, where you can climb up and get out of the hole”.
In this sense, the emotional struggle operates live and in sync with the performers’ physical risk. The spontaneity apparent in such risk-laden physical performance allows for a raw emotional response, which Thomson values in theatre. Thomson describes how each performance will present instances which reflect a new risk or the peak of a performer’s risk, which become so engagingly real to the point that the audience may too feel at risk.
“Even though it is rehearsed, there are elements that bend and flex and performers are given that licence and are allowed to explore that space. So every performance has that fresh, first time feel that is actually happening,” Thomson said.
Above Ground will be presented at Riverside Theatres from June 21 to June 23. For further information and to purchase tickets visit https://riversideparramatta.com.au/show/aboveground