Meet Josh Thomson, Fringe Face, Creative Mover, Shaker and Gravity Defier
Agile of body and playful of mind, Fringe Face and Ambassador Joshua Thomson regularly moves through a world that appears to defy gravity. Nominated for multiple Helpmann awards, Thomson is a performer, choreographer, director and maker of physical theatre and dance works that take human figures from everyday life – the office worker, the tradie – and hurls them into vast, challenging environments, including the ocean. Following over a decade of making work nationally and internationally, Thomson is currently based in Sydney as Artistic Director of physical theatre company Legs On The Wall.
“Out of all the cities I've worked in, I find navigating space in Sydney the most difficult – particularly on the roads, there is just so many cars and trucks,” Thomson admits, “I do try to duck and weave but I do cause road rage.”
We’re talking about how artists navigate the demands and pressures of finding space to live and make work here in Sydney.
“Unless you're talking about out of space,” Thomson offers, “...and in that case I've never been. But maybe it would be a great place to make work and to be creative in zero g. I might put that in for my next round at Aus Co.”
Thomson may or may not be joking. As a co-founder of ludic Gold Coast dance outfit The Farm, he has already put his body and creative process into intense physical situations, such as a 49-hour durational improvisation in an open air office at the mercy of tidal waters in the Currumbin Estuary (2018’s Tide).
“I am captivated by physical work because of the integrity and discipline of the highly trained performers,” Thomson says, “It [also] has the power to be subtle, and interpreted. The audience bring your own history, thoughts and feelings. Whether it's dance, circus or physical theatre – I love that I can relate my own life to what is in front of me on stage. But let's be honest, I just love performing so I'm hardly ever sitting and watching.”
You’ll have a lot of opportunities to see Thomson over Sydney Fringe this year. First, he’s all over the 2018 Fringe Guide – “I thought I was just doing an ambassador photoshoot, but I ended up being on the front and back of the guide” – but, more importantly, he is hosting the Legs Hub in Lilyfield, for which he has curated a series of circus acts from around Australia.
“I am pumped about the Legs Hub this year,” says Thomson, “it's a new initiative and partnership between Legs On The Wall, a world-renowned physical theatre company, and the Sydney Fringe Festival. This partnership means that circus and physical theatre has a home and a venue that is world class.”
He cheekily adds: “Of course I have to say that, because I'm the artistic director at Legs and I'm also an ambassador for the Fringe. I've gotta make sure I please both camps!”
Sydney is, for Thomson, an exciting place to be making work and he is a big proponent for artists to stay and create in this city despite the perception that Melbourne is more welcoming for live arts. His only major advice to starting artists?
“Get off the roads. Don’t buy a car, because there’s no space.”
But in all seriousness, Thomson’s vision for the arts in Sydney is a positive one: “I think my greatest hope would be that we Sydneysiders continue to see and build on the value of art. I believe making work has the power to bring people together and show how little we have that separates us.”
“I think also I would like to try this out of space work idea I’ve got. That would be nice.”
Words by James Dalton