Tag: Luke Taylor

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.


Nostalgia, comedy, spectacle and surprise: the perfect circus experience

By Kim Edwards

The Circus Oz Big Top at Birrarung Marr by the Yarra in the heart of Melbourne was simply athrill last night with a noisy excited eclectic crowd. It’s been a long time since I attended a circus, and as an adult my only experience had been vague disappointment at a rather dirty, tired, jaded show. This time and for this company however, the atmosphere was of joyous excitement and anticipation, and I honestly felt as revved up as the kids behind me who could scarcely sit still…

From the Ground Up did not disappoint: after plenty of theatre and performance art viewing in my career, I was rapturous to be genuinely amazed, surprised and delighted by this show. I loved the happy front-of-house folk, the great seating design to ensure there isn’t a bad seat in the house, the fantastic use of space and non-stop performance action, and the energised, hilarious, charming and extraordinarily multi-talented cast.

They tumbled and flipped and clowned and sang and swung and joked and juggled: I caught my breath as Mason West teetered precariously atop the Chinese pole, was mesmerised by Luke Taylor’s witty and dexterous video-game inspired block juggling, and laughed spontaneously at Flip Kammerer’s aerobic antics. It’s a wonderful idea to develop the show’s characters so thoroughly and make the audience look forward to the reappearance of their favourites, including Jeremy Davies’ slapstick magic acts and dainty Stevee Mills’ death-defying trapeze work. (N.B. I was surprised to find the program such good value, and the performer collector cards are an inspired idea!)

Special mention must go to the utterly spectacular band: Bec Matthews’ drumming was a highlight, MD Carl Polke was extraordinary on every instrument he picked up, and Ania Reynolds at the piano was both completely charismatic and remarkably skilled.

However, well-deserved crowd favourite was MC Ghenoa Gela, whose glorious stage presence and natural charm were simply palpable. The show’s loose theme of searching for the ultimate Australian song is both clumsy and unsuccessful: indeed, the violence and bitterness of some satirical lyrics seemed unpleasantly incongruous in what is otherwise such a family-oriented and jubilant celebration of our indigenous heritage, multiculturalism and shared artistic culture. However, the lovely ‘fruit salad’ metaphor that spoke so meaningfully and beautifully about cultural identity and difference (and related so poignantly to the real sense of family within this company, and the eclectic nature of the show itself) was superb, and with Ghenoa’s warmth and easy empathy, I hope it is this narrative theme that will be developed to cement this dynamic and diverse production.

With their ‘fruit salad’ audience also of families, elders, politicians, outrageously-costumed students and couples on dates, perhaps the greatest praise to offer From the Ground Up was the vigorous cheering and clapping, and the infectious, uncontrollable laughter of little kids throughout. It’s an earthy, jokey, raw, thrilling, touching, and triumphantly Australian show – and everything I thought circuses had forgotten how to be. Loved it!

Melbourne dates: June 20, 2012 to July 15, 2012

Click HERE for tickets and show information