Sunday, March 10, 2019


Caleena Sansbury, Ursula Yovich,Tibian Wyles,Kyle Shilling
Man With The Iron Neck. Photo: Viktor Frankowski


Man With The Iron Neck.

Written by Ursula Yovich. Based on an original work by Josh Bond. Co-director and original concept. Joshua Bond. Co-director Gavin Robins. Legs Artistic Director Joshua Thomson. Senior creative producer Cecily Hardy. Co-composrs. Iain Grandage and Steve Francis. Setdesigner Joey Ruigrok. Lighting designer Matt Marshall Costume designer Emma Vine. Video designer Sam James. Sound designers Michael Toisuta and Jed Silver Head Rigger Andrew Briht. Assistant rigger Chad Albinger. Stage Managers Anna Pidgeon and Stephanie Cox assisted by Letisha Ackland.. Legs on the Wall. Dunstan Playhouse. Adelaide Festival Centre. Adelaide Festival 2019 .March 8-11

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Tibian Wyles, Caleena Sansbury. Phoo: Viktor Frankowski
The main cause of death amongst young indigenous men aged 15 to 35 is suicide. However, Legs on the Wall production of The Man With The Iron Neck at the 2019 Adelaide Festival is not only a lament for the loss of indigenous men to suicide. It is a lament for all men and women, black and white who believe that the only solution to their circumstance is to take their own life.

Urula Yovich’s play, based on an original work by Joshua Bond is a plea for understanding, compassion and action. It is no didactic treatise born of anger and resentment, but the expression of grief of a family in a remote town. Mama Rose (Ursula Yovich) lives with her twin children, Bear(Kyle Shilling) and Evelyn (Caleena Sansbury). Bear and neighbor Ash (Tibian Wyles) are AFL enthusiasts and Bear dreams of playing league. Ash is in love with Evelyn and dreams of going to university. He hopes that Evelyn will go with him.

Ursula Yovich, Tibian Wyles, Kye Shilling.
Their world is turned upside down when Bear hangs himself from a large tree .Shocked and traumatized by the death of his friend, Ash becomes obsessed with the story of early 20th century stunt man The Great Peters, aka The Man With The Iron Neck. He would jump from a high ledge with a noose about his neck and survive, defying death and risking life. Plagued by the demons that haunt his knowledge of a bloody and brutal past, and the massacres of his people, Bear can not survive his hanging and his death marks another horrifying statistic

.This work addresses an important issue that is still hidden in the dark recess of political impotence.It is not only an indigenous issue. It is a nation’s curse no matter what the race, the creed or the culture and The Man With The Iron Neck is a plea for action for all men and women. As Mama Rose says to Ash when he tells her he is leaving the remote town for university in the city, “Pain is not in the place. It is here” she says placing her hand upon her heart. The grief that can tear a family apart can also bring a family together and The Man With The Iron Neck offers hope.

Legs on the Wall is a physical theatre company, and I expected greater focus on physical theatre as a metaphor. There is a tempestuous sequence as a hills hoist flies through the air during Bear’s fearful recollections of the slaughter of his mob, and a high flying aerial act in which Ash fantasizes about the lost talents and opportunities of his friend. Sam James’s video design is stunning, capturing the lush profusion of the Australian bush and the ghostly images of a frightening past accompanied by Michael Toisuta and Jed Silver’s sound design. Visually, the show is striking, capturing the authenticity of the Australian landscape and the troubled past. Dramatically, it is less effective. There is considerable text which may have been better served by greater visual impact of . Legs on the Wall’s skill in communicating to an audience lies primarily in the realm of physical theatre. Less text and more physical exploration of theme and narrative may have had a more powerful impact.

Nonetheless, The Man With The Iron Neck leaves the audience with despair on the one hand at the frightful rate of suicide amongst young people of both indigenous and non-indigenous cultures and hope on the other that the nation may come to some solution.

After Auntie Georgina Williams performed a Welcome to Country before the commencement of the show, Founder of the Balunu Foundation David Cole talked about the aims of , the indigenous owned and operated organization, dedicated to breaking the cycle of indigenous disadvantage. More information can be found by going to the website

Legs on the Wall is to be applauded for confronting this terrible issue and it is now up to the Australian governments and community to actively support the significant work of one of the country’s leading physical theatre companies.