Circus Incognitus: Feel free to fling fruit

Jamie Adkins gives his audience oranges. "That way, if they don't like the show, they can throw them at me," said the travelling circus artist and clown.

Jamie Adkins gives his audience oranges.

“That way, if they don’t like the show, they can throw them at me,” said the travelling circus artist and clown.

Adkins, who is bringing his one-man show, Circus Incognitus, to Whitehorse next week, actually encourages the audience to throw oranges.

It’s part of a routine he does with a fork and a grape.

Somehow, with the fork in his mouth, he also manages to spear the oranges.

This career choice came to Adkins early and suddenly.

“I was 13 and saw this juggler performing on the street,” he said.

It was the first live performance he’d ever seen.

“And I knew right then that’s what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” he said. “I wanted to be a street performer.”

The street performing lasted about five years.

“And that’s when I realized I didn’t want to be a street performer for the rest of my life,” said Adkins, with a laugh.

“It’s a good way to start a career, but not how I wanted to end it.”

With his juggling and unicycle skills, the circus would have been a perfect fit.

But traditional circus shows didn’t turn his crank.

“It just didn’t touch me as an audience member,” he said.

Then Adkins saw the Pickle Family Circus in San Francisco and that all changed.

Performing in a theatre, instead of under the big top, the Pickle Family put its emphasis on people.

“There was lots of feeling and emotion on an intimate level, rather than those big ‘ta-da’ moments,” said Adkins.

There were also no animals.

“I prefer those smaller shows where you get to know the artist,” he said.

It’s like music.

Adkins would much rather see a small act in an intimate venue than a mega show like Lady Gaga, “all smoke and lights,” he said.

After training with the Pickle Family, Adkins ended up in Montreal with Cirque Éloize, another small company.

He also did a stint with Cirque du Soleil in New York, but given the choice, he’d much rather stick to his one-man show.

However, it’s actually not a one-man show, he added.

“As a clown, you always have a partner,” said Adkins.

In this case, it’s the audience.

“We find each other during the show,” he said.

And the audience helps shape the show, making every performance unique.

“As a juggler if you drop the ball into the audience, it’s a tragedy,” said Adkins. “But if you drop the ball as a clown, it’s an opportunity – there are no mistakes.”

Adkins is not a puffy-haired, white-faced clown with big shoes.

“I don’t really wear makeup at all,” he said.

It’s more about the physical performance and the relationship that’s forged with the audience.

And while kids love the show, it’s not a kid’s show per say.

In fact, Adkins often has fathers or mothers come up and say they came to the show for their kids and ended up enjoying it more than their children.

His own mother is a different story.

“I think she still hopes I’m going to grow out of it,” he said.

Circus Incognitus is performing at the Yukon Arts Centre Feb. 21 and 22. The shows start at 7 p.m.

Contact Genesee Keevil at gkeevil@yukon-news.com