When circus meets opera: Q&A with Kate Fryer

8 Jun 2016

From aerial acrobatics to laughing out loud, Kate Fryer from Circus Oz troupe Dislocate unpacks circus, commedia dell’arte and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci coming together on stage in Laughter and Tears at The Palais this August.

Laughter and Tears rehearsal. Photo: Charlie Kinross

How will circus and opera combine in Laughter and Tears?

Hopefully seamlessly! Our intention is to surprise and delight the audience with the physical skill embedded into the story. We hope to take the audience on a journey that makes them gasp without losing site of the story.

Who is Dislocate and how did you become involved with the production?

Dislocate are the storytellers of Australian circus. We’ve spent years refining our technique in order to create visually and physically spectacular theatre, striving to hide the skill and delight of circus skills within contemporary stories. We are all alumni of Circus Oz and when they approached us to become involved in this production we jumped at the chance. 

What’s your role in the production?

I am playing a character who starts as a stage hand of the theatre and then infiltrates the production that unfolds. We are horrified at the treatment of the leading lady and along with my cohorts we are drawn into the production; we blur the lines between the reality and fantasy of the production.

Laughter and Tears rehearsal. Photo: Charlie Kinross

You recently took part in a rehearsal workshop period. What type of acts and physical theatre can audiences expect?

We have created some wonderful physical comedy as well as poetic aerial acrobatics. Our director Emil Wolk has created some incredibly intricate sequences that involve a highly specialised set. 

What made the team laugh most during rehearsals?

I'm not sure I can repeat many of the things that had us in stitches! But the irreverent nature of the characters and the physical comedy we have been playing with mixed with a seriousness that is inherent in the skill needed to sing opera has led to many hilarious happy clashes of cultures. 

There will be aerial work seen on stage. Is that frightening to perform?

Aerial work was my first love in discovering circus. I guess it is like anything – you need the right combination of skill and fearlessness to learn anything, whether that is swinging through the air or riding a bike. I still don't ride bikes, they scare me! I am never scared performing aerially as I would never perform something that I didn't know inside out. 

Have you worked closely with Commedia dell’arte traditions in the past? How have they been drawn upon in Laughter and Tears?

I worked with an educational theatre company who specialised in Commedia many years ago, it is amazing just how much I retained. Commedia pops up all the time in theatre; many of Shakespeare's works are based on the lazzi's and the stock characters appear in some form or another in so many scripts. So you are never that far away from the traditions of Commedia. We are certainly using an energy, irreverence and physicality that people will recognise, albeit somewhat skewed and replanted. 

What do you think audiences will love most about this production?

I suspect there will be very little for the audience not to love. I hope they will be surprised and amazed by the circus and to the extent the singers are prepared to enter the world. 

Laughter and Tears was part of Victorian Opera's Season 2016.