He’s not entirely sure how his show will unfold when he steps in front of the audience at the Victoria International Buskers Festival later this week, but one thing Akron McKenzie is sure of is there’s bound to be plenty of laughs.
So far the plan is to start with a sheet over his head, stumbling around and bumping into people before unveiling his repertoire of comedy circus skills like juggling fire. The grand finale? A big fat batman riding a unicycle.
“It looks ridiculous, but people are going to laugh at it,” said McKenzie, also known as Akron the Bizarre. “I just try to get people to laugh at unusual behaviour.”
The 41-year-old Victoria resident has been a full-time street performer for the past 21 years and is one of 75 to 100 names from across Canada, Australia, the UK, USA, Sweden and the Netherlands on the roster for the sixth annual Victoria International Buskers Festival.
The 10-day festival includes free hourly shows at Bastion Square, the Bay Centre, the Victoria Public Market at the Hudson and Uptown. Included in this year’s line up is the return of 2014’s popular Flame Oz fire show from Australia along with multiple People’s Choice award winner, soccer ball juggler Victor Rubilar. New acts include the Flying Dutchmen duo from Amsterdam, Toronto’s Silver Starlets aerial team, Montreal’s Hand Me Down Circus and Kate Wright of Australia.
“I equate it to a circus themed cruise ship pulling into downtown with local buskers joining in to present 10 days of fun,” said John Vickers, the festival’s executive director. “It’s going to be as amazing as everyone has come to expect with truly awesome talent.”
This year marks the first time McKenzie will be performing in the festival. He usually does about 180 shows during the course of the summer, many of which take place in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Half the year is spent overseas, performing at festivals and on the streets of various cities throughout Europe.
McKenzie’s interest in street performers began when he attended the Edmonton Fringe Festival at the age of 15. He soon learned how to juggle, picking up other circus tricks along the way, and has never looked back.
“I like the independence of it, being able to go out and making people laugh anywhere, any place. And I like the honesty of it too, which is why I think I’ve been doing it so long,” said McKenzie, adding sometimes it can take a while to gather a crowd. The direction of his shows often depend on the reaction he receives from the audience.
“You wonder should I quit or keep on going or what should I do? When you get on top of that and you conquer it, you feel like wow, I just did that, it came together.”
The International Buskers Festival runs from Friday, July 15 to Sunday, July 24. For more information about shows and locations visit victoriabuskers.com.