There is a duality to Jesters Incognito, on at the Hamilton Fringe Festival this summer. On the one hand, it’s a silly, sometimes insane one-man comedy show, featuring a series of widely differing street jesters. On the other hand, it’s a brief look into the mental and physical hurdles in the life of Harrison Wheeler, the man behind Jesters Incognito. This duality is strange at first, but there is a clear connection established between the mental and physical health issues that plagued Wheeler and the show that he has conceived.
In Jesters Incognito, Wheeler tells the story of a dystopian city where all entertainment and media is controlled with an iron fist. Any entertainment not approved is punishable by death, and born out of this restriction is the Jesters Incognito, an underground group of street jesters available for hire in secret. They entertain even in the face of death because it is their nature. In the show, Wheeler takes on the personas of several of these jesters, entertaining the audience and telling their stories of how they joined the underground troupe.
In between these performances, a screen displays comic strips, photography, art, and text (all created by Wheeler) to explain the place in his mind that all this has comes from. When you read his story as it is told in bits and pieces on the screen, it is sad and borderline depressing to take in. However, when you are pulled out of that story and drawn back into the world of the underground jesters, you begin to understand how this gloomy tale of mental and physical adversity helped pave the way for rejuvenation. It makes the humour that much more intense and real, not just because it is funny (and it is definitely funny) but because you have seen the journey that has led Wheeler here.
For more information, visit www.hamiltonfringe.ca.