This Friday and Saturday NORPA presents Legs On The Wall’s latest offering Symphony. Mandy Nolan had a chat with Patrick Nolan the artistic director to see just how he keeps those Legs in shape!
What do you think it is about Legs On The Wall that sets them apart as a company?
We once received a review that said something along the lines of ‘every show Legs On The Wall creates, challenges our sense of what theatre can be’; Legs has always sought to explore the boundaries of performance. There is a physical and conceptual boldness and daring in this, which is perhaps the company’s most distinguishing quality. Each production of the company is distinctly different in its approach to performance, so our ‘house style’, for want of a better descriptor, is perhaps that we don’t have one. We’re interested in creating great theatrical experiences – however that may come to be.
How does the vision of an artistic director shape a company?
Depends on the artistic director… As the AD of Legs I am passionate about exploring how the performer and live musician can work together. Added to this is the role of digital media and projected imagery. How can these three different languages of the body, sound and image work together (or not) to reveal something that we may not have thought about before.
Can you tell me a little about the concept of Symphony?
We invited Stefan Gregory to choose one of Beethoven’s symphonies with the brief being that he had to rethink it for a solo instrument. In Stefan’s case it is a guitar and he chose the 7th Symphony, which is renowned for its melodic and rhythmic inventiveness. Using this as our starting point we went on to look at the structure of a an orchestra, using it as a model for the ways in which we create community – a number of disparate voices working together to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
How have the performers been preparing for the show?
They have listened to Beethoven a lot and talked a lot about the relationship of the individual to the community, but for most of the time they have pushed their bodies to extreme places to develop a physical language that conjures a world both familiar and strange.
There is always such a fascination with acrobatics and circus – what is it about pushing the human body to extremes that is so evocative for us, do you think?
We are all ultimately prisoners of our bodies and there is something quite cathartic about watching another human – who is basically made of the same stuff as us – do things that we can only wonder at. I also think there is also an aesthetic power to watching a beautifully formed body or bodies move with apparent effortlessness through space. It is probably worth noting here that Symphony does not draw upon circus for its performing language. Physical theatre plumbs a number of different contemporary forms of performance practice – circus, vaudeville, cabaret, dance, spoken word – as its building blocks. In the case of Symphony we use dance primarily, with some acrobatics as well.
What are the main challenges you face in mounting Symphony?
Time is always the greatest challenge in creating a new work. The more time you have to work on something the more layers can emerge and be presented. Also we have not always had Stefan with us throughout the rehearsal period so sometimes we have been working off a recording he made and, given that the dynamics between Stefan and the performers are at the heart of the performance, this can be a little challenging at times.
What should we expect for the Lismore show?
I’m always wary of this question because I think it is best if audiences come to a production with no expectations. We can guarantee them some virtuosic guitar playing, ingenious video design and physical performances of the highest order… and an opportunity to experience something that will probably be quite unlike anything else they have experienced in the past little while. We’re planning on having a very good time.
Saturday and Sunday at Lismore City Hall. 7.30pm. Bookings 1300 066 772.