(Manitoba Theatre for Young People)
It ain't easy being a clown... but one of the few qualms with Jamie Adkins' solo clown show Circus INcognitus is that he makes it look too easy at points.
Adkins (a Montreal-based performer who's worked with groups like Cirque du Soleil) comes to clowning by way of street performing, and he's obviously mastered a range of skills along the way. His main focus is the "slack rope," which is a loose high wire - and he builds this show up to a dazzling finale on that. But most of the lead-up is based around less death-defying street performer skills - he's a particularly skilled juggler, and also shows off some impressive sleight-of-hand tricks.
Those may sound like pretty basic clowning skills, but Adkins does some remarkable things with that bag of tricks - like using a fork in his mouth to catch oranges that are thrown at him from the audience. (He builds up to catching a bowling ball-sized melon, which an older kid - at the performance I saw, yours truly - gets to throw from the audience. This therefore marks the first time I have literally thrown fruit at a performer.)
Adkins structures the show around a loose plot - a man trying to overcome stage fright - and he brings a cheeky, likeable character to the stage. It's all very playful, and at points Adkins almost seems as much a wordless stand-up comic as he does a clown.
This all builds to a great finale, which includes some spectacular stilt-like work with a ladder, and juggling on the slack rope. The lead up to that, though, hits some great "how'd he do that?" moments, but sometimes feels like it's dragging a bit. Part of the problem may be that Jamie Adkins is sort of victim of his own success - he's so good at what he's doing, he makes it seem almost too easy, and unless you really stop to think about them, sometimes his tricks look deceptively simple. Even so, Circus INcognitus could stand to be a few minutes shorter (it runs just over an hour).
That said, the show delighted the kids in the audience at the opening matinee - it's got plenty enough laughs in it to hold the kids, especially the younger ones. I'd say the eight-year-old and under crown will probably get the most out of Jamie Adkins' playful silliness.
It's a circus that's worth running away to.