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Ask Jamie Adkins what he does for a living and his answer will vary, depending on where you live.

If you call North America home, Adkins is a physical comedian. In Europe? He’s a clown. Blame the likes of white-faced, red-nosed, giant shoe-wearing types peddling fast food in these parts for the need to distinguish. In contrast, the only thing Adkins pedals is a unicycle.

“When you say clown, people here have a picture in their head. That’s not what I do,” Adkins says.

Still, a clown is a clown is a clown. It’s a job title Adkins wears with pride, reclaiming it from those corporate versions. And it’s one he discovered he wanted on his resume when he was 13 years old and saw a comedian- juggler performing on a San Diego street. Adkins recalls how magical it was to see a crowd slowly gather around the juggler as he performed, then disappear again when the act was done; the juggler leaving only his imprint in the imaginations of those who watched him.

“This agile, endearing man generates plenty of laughs as well as audience identification. It adds up to a lovely hour of physical comedy.”


He hopes to have the same effect on Niagara audiences when he comes to St. Catharines on Feb. 17 to perform Circus INcognitus. His one- man show is described as a humble and unguarded poetic journey with sidesplitting wit. In it, Adkins walks onto stage with only a shoebox, builds a scene around him with everyday objects before dealing with the pitfalls of it all going awry. His ladder disintegrates, his wire goes slack. He winds up trying to catch lemons on a fork in between his teeth.

In some ways, it’s a long way from his first show on a sidewalk, juggling on a unicycle at 16. In other ways, it’s a return to his roots as a solo performer after giving up street theatre life for stints with San Francisco’s Pickle Family Circus, and Quebec’s Cirque Éloize.

But, as he explains, while the show is his own work and he’s the only clown on stage, he isn’t the show’s only actor.



“I’m not alone on stage. I have the audience with me as well,” Adkins says. “Sometimes they even get up on stage with me.”

That isn’t scripted into Circus Incognitus, but Adkins is a clown, after all. So he flies by the seat of his pants — held up by suspenders, of course — and turns every monkey wrench thrown his way into something that will delight those watching him.

“When you’re a clown, you’re always open to opportunity,” he explains. “If I’m juggling and I drop a ball in the audience, it’s an opportunity. Any mistake is an opportunity and I make a lot of mistakes.”

This clearly bodes well for those seeing his show, and perhaps for the reputation of clowns on this side of the Atlantic.

“Clowning is a metaphor for life,” he says, “because a clown always gets up after a fall.”

- Tiffany Mayer

Jamie Adkins

Circus INcognitus Partridge Hall MEMBER: $17 REGULAR: $20 COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY: $25 HIGH SCHOOL: $5

7PM Wed 17 Feb

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