Tag: Kate Fryer

Review: Circus Oz Presents AURORA

Dazzling visuals and flying penguins

By Leeor Adar

Circus Oz’s latest offering, Aurora, is a whole lot of fun for the family, offering dazzling visuals and humour with a nod to the climate and its refugees.

Directed by Kate Fryer, the talented ensemble includes a polar bear (Tara Silcock), a band of flying penguins (Sam Aldham, Matty Brown, Adam Malone, Spenser Inwood, Shani Stephens, Jillibalu Riley), and a fantastic live music soundscape featuring Jeremy Hopkins and Selene Messinis.

Children will be completely entertained from the get-go, with the band of flying penguins eliciting laughter and smiles from the crowd, including a few bouncing props tossed amongst the audience – for those holding a glass of wine, be warned! The penguins soon show their prowess with the flying trapeze, peppering humour from high above as they perform extraordinary acts, leaping to one another with audible gasps from the audience.

Silcock emerges to the audience grinning, and commences a polar bear/climate awareness rap, which is admittedly a difficult feat to perform in a polar bear suit under the hot lights. But Silcock is up for the challenge, flanked by Hopkins and Messinis on drums. The rap is a touch breathless, but my partner and I shared a sad look about the current state of affairs for the polar beast. It quickly turns playful again, as Silcock attempts to enjoy a hearty meal of a toy penguin, much to the outrage of the surrounding children in the audience, prompting her to commence an artful foot juggle with the toy penguin.

The unfolding of Aurora tells the story of toxic waste and rubbish piling up, and the plight of the animals fighting for food and territory. Circus Oz attempts to explore this through a combination of humour, and acts that dissect its impact on the environment and its inhabitants whilst showcasing the many talents of its ensemble. It’s hard to inject the realities of our environment to children, and while its not lost on the adult spectators, I do wonder if the younger members of the audience are cognisant to what is being performed.

Stand out, Adam Malone, is electrifying in his Washington trapeze act suspended above the toxic waste, mostly balancing on his head (gasp!), and later again proving his mercurial performance style in a hoops act. Sam Aldham’s notable collection of plastic rubbish from a rope as he climbs it precariously above the ground, is another nod to the pick-up-your-rubbish fodder for the children in the audience. Matthew Brown is a regal addition of the classic ringmaster trope, adding a level of gravitas to the mostly light-hearted entertainment.

Aurora, with its quality selection of circus acts, music and high-energy performances makes for an enjoyable romp for all of its spectators.

You can catch Aurora until 6 October at the gorgeous Royal Botanic Gardens. Don’t forget to take the younger members of your tribe! Tickets: https://www.circusoz.com/shows-and-tickets/about/10021/aurora.html

Photography by Mark Turner


New-generation circus artists dazzle

By Leeor Adar

Circosis is the coming together of the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) final-year students. It is a solo performance showcase for the students to perform their skills after three intense years of studying their art.


Director Kate Fryer assisted students in crafting their solo works and created a hospital/warehouse theme as a backdrop, where students donned doctors’ uniforms and shuttled pieces and props offstage. Interspersed amongst solo performances, the group would create vignettes that were telling of their own skills and stories, some humorous and others downright disturbing.

Due to the large number of graduating students now coming through NICA, Circosis was split into two separate groups labelled the Left Brain/Right Brain. I attended the opening night of the Left Brain, and had an absolutely fantastic night.

The solos opened with Nelson Smyles – a last name befitting the Port Macquarie native whose clowning with hoops suspended in air was charming and breathtaking. Watching Smyles effortlessly leap through the hoops before him as they playfully bounced and wiggled out of his way was a delightful start to the night. Following Smyles were two very differing acts; Phillip Island’s Harley Timmermans performed a powerful and fluid piece with aerial straps and Maya Tregonning hailing from Perth treated us to a rambunctious day in the life of a wild-animal circus trainer in some clowning that sent the audience into fits of laughter.

A more nostalgic work followed with New Zealand’s Emily Gore who took us on a sentimental ride in using the rotating ring apparatus. Isaac Lawry’s energy was palpable, but almost at odds with the haunting blue lantern that swung from the ceiling, sending him diving perilously away from it. One thing was clear from some of these works, there were definite energies and experiences they were calling upon – loneliness, desperation to grasp joy, or escaping from some force. The final piece before interval was therefore the shock factor brought by Brisbane’s Ela Bartilomo, whose anti-fur campaign began as a fashion-model photo shoot suspended in air before a contortionist act with a grotesque twist.

Post-interval revealed acts that only continued to raise the bar. Canberra’s Elizabeth Jackson balanced herself with breathtaking strength upon the Chinese pole, recalling an almost proletkult theatre-style. Jack Wilde also hailing from Canberra delivered a glitzy number whilst flirting with the crowd balanced on a ladder. Ulladulla’s Luke Thomas followed in what was one of the standout performances of the night: an ethereal piece that saw him suspended in the air in circus tissue. Thomas’ work captured the concept of rising above circumstances beyond our control as he fluidly ascended the tissue and plastic bags fell from above him. Sutton’s Sandra Lee took us to an even darker space as she hand-balanced and contorted her body to a recording of performance artist Marina Abramović discussing her experience of the piece Rhythm O, where she allowed the audience to inflict pleasure and pain upon her body. Listening to Abramović’s recording was harrowing and distracted a little from Lee’s movements – but overall Lee’s performance was a marvelous show of elegance and physical strength.

The last two performances of the night were very much about showmanship. Ulladulla’s Riley McDonald’s performance on the swinging trapeze as he embodied a deranged seducer/madman was very tongue-in-cheek and risqué, while Melbourne’s Jessie McKibbin’s performance on the roue Cyr (Cyr wheel) was a beautiful finish for the evening, and one of the most memorable performances of the night. McKibbin managed a multitude of costume changes in the few minutes whilst controlling her Cyr with effortless grace.

To wind up the night the performers came together in their doctors’ uniforms for an exciting finale – capping off an incredible evening from the up-and-coming circus talent in Australia.

You can catch either Left Brain or Right Brain (why not both!) until the 24 June. Please follow the link for performance dates/times and bookings: https://www.nica.com.au/event-tickets.php?cPath=422

Image by Aaron Walker Photography

Victorian Opera and Circus Oz Presents LAUGHTER AND TEARS

Brave ascent into arias and airy new ground

By Leeor Adar

It is a wonderful idea in theory to create an amalgamation of opera and circus in production. Both disciplines embody the drama of the human condition, whether through the astonishing highs of an operatic voice to the deep dive taken by the circus performer.

Laughter and Tears.jpg

Victorian Opera and the State Opera of South Australia merge here with Circus Oz to bring to life Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. The production begins in humour as one of our characters throws open the curtains and insists on joining the wonderful Orchestra Victoria under concertmaster Roger Jonsson. It’s a clever breakage of the fourth wall, and a nod at the fact we are watching a play within a play, which becomes of greater importance as we move towards Act II.

The dress rehearsal of a Commedia dell’Arte pantomime is slapstick in true tradition, with Circus Oz performers Kate Fryer, Geoffrey Dunstan, D J Garner and Luke Taylor as stage hands, essentially stealing the show from the main action of the dress rehearsal. The stage hands are so effortless in their expression, humour and movement that we as an audience implicitly trust them to flip their bodies and hang off ladders without batting an eye. Unfortunately, Act I is bordering on dull, and when the curtains closed at interval, it was difficult to fathom where Laughter and Tears would take us.

Act II is a very different turn from Act I, undoubtedly as we’ve moved on from the slapstick and now entered the Tears. Tonio, performed with brooding viciousness by the talented baritone James Clayton, is the prologue to the Tears, reminding us that the customs of Commedia are over, and we are now going to witness passion, blood and flesh in Act II.

Enter Pagliacci.

Disappointingly, the amalgamation of circus and opera does not work well here. There is one exception, and it is occurs when Nedda (soprano Elvira Fatykhova) describes the freedom of birds in nature as Geoffrey Dunstan leaps upon ropes, ever-escalating in height, inspiring awe and heightened pulse rates amongst the audience. This is the amalgamation I was seeking. It was the beauty of Fatykhova’s voice soaring as the body of the performer flung itself into careless abandon. It was breathtaking and brief. Circus Oz took a backseat to the drama of Pagliacci from here on, and it will be worthwhile to utilise their skill in more astonishing ways in future exercises.

It is wonderful to see the famous tenor aria, Vesti La Giubba, performed live by such a talented tenor as Rosario La Spina. As Canio (La Spina) breaks down during this performance, the heart simply stops. The warmth and pathos of his voice is heartbreaking. I was very moved, and in that moment Tears delivered. La Spina’s shaking rage and vulnerability prior to slaying his wife and her lover showcased La Spina’s marvellous talent as a performer.

To see the death-defying leap of bird-song, and the leap of faith taken by Victorian Opera and Circus Oz, you can see Laughter and Tears on Tuesday 16, and Thursday 18 of August at 7:30pm, at The Palais Theatre: http://www.victorianopera.com.au/what-s-on/season-2016/laughter-and-tears/

Image by Jeff Busby

Dislocate Presents IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK…?

First there’s good circus, then great circus – and then this

By Myron My

When you move into a house, you can’t help but be filled with the excitement of new beginnings as you begin to unpack boxes and find new places for your belongings, but what about the people who lived there before us? Not only the ones that have just left, but the ones that lived there ten years ago and twenty years ago? What memories have they left behind? Presented by Dislocate, If These Walls Could Talk…? shows the stories of these past inhabitants over six decades, through circus, performance and imagination.

If These Walls Could Talk

The four performers – Geoff Dunstan, Kate Fryer, DJ Garner and Luke Taylor – have the difficult task of not only performing circus acts that will entertain the audience but also convincingly remaining in character and showing their emotional journey in short periods of time. The first story, set in the 60s, show a loving elderly couple (Fryer and Dunstan) who decide together to take their own lives. As they reminisce over their younger years together, the acrobatics they perform are seen as visual representation of the emotions they are feeling. The closing moment is beautifully executed as the stage fades to black on the couple for one last time. And so the stories continue, showing the various inhabitants’ dealings with life, death and moving on.

The last story evokes a powerful mixture of emotions as we see a man (Dunstan) attempting various methods of suicide only to have them thwarted by some otherworldly force. When he attempts to jump out the window, the window slams shut on his face. When he attempts to hang himself by the door, the door gives way and releases the rope. Despite the clear theme of suicide, there is a delicate and thoughtful blend of humour throughout this piece, and the show as a whole. The finale is wonderfully wrought with the past residents spinning around the man on a trapeze as photographs fall from the ceiling of all the people who have lived there before.

The set changeover between the decades is comically done and highly creative, as the ensemble put their clowning skills to excellent use. The set, composition and costumes by Michael Baxter, Chris Lewis and Harriet Oxley respectively are perfectly themed to the eras. I particularly loved the 70s disco tunes of a gay relationship and the 80s pink jumpsuit donned by Fryer. Eduard Ingles’ lighting design is also utilised effectively, most memorably in the 80s domestic violence afterlife sequence.

Good circus is obvious when the tricks are good, the audience is interested and there are a few gasps, but great circus is when there is a story we can follow and we become emotionally invested in the characters we see. If These Walls Could Talk…? goes beyond even that, and creates a poignant reminder that while we should embrace life and all there is to it, we should not forget the ones that have come before us.

If These Walls Could Talk…? was performed at Gasworks Arts Park on 20-21 June 2016.