Ten years ago Josh Bond wrote a 20 minute one-man show about his personal experience with suicide.
Now, Man With The Iron Neck has been fleshed out, by writer Ursula Yovich, and performed as a physical theatre spectacle in Brisbane and Sydney.
“The responses have taken all our breath away," says Bond. "We seem to be hitting all the right marks."
Bond began working as a physical performer, which aided in the conception and creation of this production. “When I was working at festivals and surrounded by carnies and performers I heard about The Great Peters, who would throw himself off bridges, and I became fascinated,” he says. “There were such parallels between his work and what we do with our own mortality, what I had experienced. I would question it – why would someone do that? Take their own life or take those risks? That fascination lead to the idea for this show.”
Man With The Iron Neck looks at suicide in a remote Indigenous community. In 2017, suicide was the leading cause of death for Indigenous youth; with far higher rates of self-harm and suicide than their non-Indigenous counterparts. “This is the direct result of living under a post-colonial regime for 130 years,” says Bond. “To suggest that the suicide of these kids is unrelated to the inherited trauma from this colonisation would be a grave mistake.”
The story is an Indigenous one. It recognises the severely disproportionate number of First Nation people who are committing suicide, but Bond believes the historic context is no barrier to story's accessibility. “Irrespective of [the history], even from non-Indigenous perspectives, we are all a product of our environment and our experience – both lived and inherited.
“As much as this show is about suicide, it is also much more than that,” he says. “It is about when we feel so hopeless, what are the things that remind you that life is worth it? What are the things worth hanging on to? It reminds us that we need to have that self-love, and that we are loved and capable of surviving.
“If you can see love and receive love, then you can find empathy, and therein lies humanity,” says Bond. “Coming from the place of frustration – wanting to scream about it, and I often feel quite powerless. But I guess I wanted to do what I could with the skills that I have and make something that talks about relationships and love between families.”