nytheatre.com review by Wendy Remington Bowie
February 11, 2011
Circus Incognitus, created and performed by circus artist Jamie Adkins, sits in that rare and magical land of theater that is truly enjoyable for all ages. This show is not children’s theater that’s enjoyable for grown-ups or grown up theater that kids would enjoy. This piece is wholly enjoyable in its own right for audience members of all ages.
The majority of the one-hour, one-man piece is completed with little other than a suitcase, a cardboard box, a chair, and some juggling balls. The sparseness of things completely adds to the magic. Wads of paper are sleighted into bouncy balls which are impressively and expertly bounced around. Improbable items are pulled from a cardboard box which appears to have no bottom and are then juggled and whirled about the stage. Ping-pong balls are juggled, the audience is given fruit to throw and Adkins to catch. All culminates in “Le Grand Finale,” involving a delightfully stomach-dropping dance with a ladder and then a tightrope. Though I was disappointed to see the finale appear and know the show was ending, “Le Grande Finale” was grand indeed.
The show draws upon children’s natural energy and inability to keep quiet by incorporating their outbursts and involving them in some of the bits. When Adkins began speaking into a mike stand without a microphone on it, the kids needed no prompt or cue to participate (and let him know his mistake) but it somehow just came naturally and without, I think, their being conscious of it.
Something that was particularly impressive about the experience was how seamlessly everyone was drawn in and how universal the appeal seemed to be for everyone there. From all around me, I heard outbursts of kids’ enthusiasm. “This guy is hilarious!” and ”How did he do that?” as well as full out guffaws from the adults. This show elicited the kind of belly laughs my kid usually reserves only for Tom and Jerry.
Jamie Adkins makes an unbearably lovable, relatable, and sympathetic clown who is equally engaging to kids and adults. His performance is nuanced and full and his skill is incredible. Physics apparently do not apply. And there were times that it appeared that Adkins might have been enjoying himself as much as we were enjoying watching him.
Overall the experience was incredibly enjoyable. Adkins intends to create an homage to the small acts that occur between the big, show-stopper acts of a circus. His admiration for this kind of performance is evident. The piece felt timeless, classic, and universal, drawing on circus tradition. And watching it in the New Victory Theater, a former vaudeville house, only heightened that feeling. Adkins somehow manages to make the performance feel both intimate and communal at the same time. We both really really enjoyed ourselves.