Cherry the Clown
Adi Paxton does magic tricks on the sidelines, treasuring the moments when the kids go "Wow"
It was a packed house in Durban last night. Two pied pipers were enthralling their audience. While Sachin Tendulkar was turning his adult audience into chanting kids, a lady in clown make-up was being mobbed by the actual kids in the stands. She made animal shapes out of balloons. She juggled and did little magic tricks. The kids, and their Sachin-intoxicated parents, were left with big smiles on their faces.
It's what she does for a living. Making people happy since 1986 as "Cherry the Clown". "I can make cats, dogs, rabbit, parrots, giraffes, swans and all sorts of things!" Adi Paxton fires the list out rapidly in a saccharine voice. She has been around Europe - Germany, Austria and England, puppeteering, telling stories and doing shows. She is vice president of a magicians' society in South Africa and this is her life.
A friendly but slightly drunk man wants an hug. She pauses briefly and looks at him before giving him one. "You gave just a half-hug," he complains. She laughs. The man joins in.
She is 46 now. Surely there were awkward situations with men when she was younger, performing in public places like this ? How does she deal with them?
"Experience," she says. "I am a very friendly person and I like people a lot. Even when people are cheeky, you just give them a look, you know." She gives me the look. I swear I hadn't done anything. Well, there was a pretty girl sitting in the far corner and I was thinking about whether I should try doing a Miss-Bollywood-type interview with her, but forget it, why risk getting that look again? I continue to speak to Paxton instead.
A lady interrupts us. "Can you make something nice for my kid?" The fingers go about working their magic. A duck is made and the mother leaves, happy.
What's been the best moment in Paxton's career? "We were invited to perform at Nelson Mandela's 80th birthday. He had never had a clown before for one of his birthdays. He really enjoyed our show, and at the end of it came down and hugged us. It was a great moment."
What's been the worst moment? "Sometimes, just sometimes, people don't pay up, you know. That's real bad, but luckily it happens rarely. Otherwise there is nothing much bad that happens on the job."
Paxton says she was drawn into magic when she was a little girl. "I learned from books initially. Then I learnt it properly. Later I went to university to do drama and one time someone asked me to be a clown at a party. I ended up enjoying it so much that I began this career when I was 23.
A couple of children surround her. She indulges them with a smile. "I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't like kids." She is married but doesn't have any children of her own. "I can't have children, but you know, I guess I have everybody's else's children."
She proceeds to do a magic trick involving a coin and a handkerchief. The kids and adults lap it up. "When you see a kid's, or adult's, face when they go 'Wow', that's absolutely the magic moment for me... that's what you work for."
Adi Paxton glides away into the evening, with kids tailing her. In the middle, Shane Warne is bowling. A lovely magical night at the stadium.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo