Tweedy's delightful double bill

  • Tweedy the clown
  • Tweedy in Aladdin, Everyman Theatre Cheltenham
  • Waiting for Godot, Everyman Theatre Cheltenham

Our favourite clown sure is spending a lot of time in Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre over the coming months - he’s just about to star in the riotous Christmas panto, Aladdin, before stepping out in Beckett’s iconic tragicomedy, Waiting for Godot, in February 2019. We caught up with the man himself shortly after the Giffords circus wagons stopped rolling.

Hello Tweedy. How have you been spending your time since the end of 2018’s Giffords Circus tour?

Building props for a new show that’s touring in February. I’ve got no other time to do it so I’m doing it now!

During our last interview - three years ago! - you told us that you’d long wanted to do Waiting for Godot. How would you describe the play to somebody unfamiliar with the material?

That’s a tricky question. There’s a classic quote about Godot: ‘Nothing happens - twice.’ And nothing much does happen, but it’s what the characters do and how they do it that makes it interesting. I’ve always been drawn to the characters - they’re very low status, down on their luck, just trying to pass the time. As we all do.

I should tell you how I became familiar with the play. Every year there’s a special memorial service that clowns go to, the annual Grimaldi memorial service in Haggerston. Around twelve years ago I went to the service and ended up chatting to the great award-winning clown/actor Bill Irwin (who is like a god to me!). Afterwards, we started hanging out a bit, and he got talking about the writer Samuel Beckett, and in particular Waiting for Godot, in which he’d once appeared alongside Steve Martin and Robin Williams.

Later, in 2009, I was in America performing at Madison Square Garden - while, at the same time, Bill was doing Waiting for Godot in Broadway.

Before Godot, of course, you’re starring in the Everyman’s Christmas pantomime, Aladdin. What’s the trickiest thing about pulling off a good Christmas panto?

Actually I had a meeting yesterday with the director Peter Duncan and the set designers and builders, who were in the middle of building a set. It’s great to have these big ideas, and the theatre behind your ideas, but when you get a big set built, you then have the pressure of actually making it work - to justify all the gadgets you’ve put in it. Making the grand idea physically work…that’s the tricky thing.

What was your first ever panto like?

My first ever panto was really one of my first ever jobs. I was seventeen; I’d just left school. I knew that I wanted to do clowning, but I was unsure how I’d get into it. So I was doing youth theatre when I was first offered a panto, in the very same theatre. That was when I first thought: ‘Wow, I can actually make money doing this!’ [Laughs]. That’s really what got me going, and made me determined to actually become a clown.

By our estimation, your clowning career is almost twenty-five years old

Yeah! It’s got to the point where the people who saw me as kids are now bringing their kids, and that makes me feel very old. But it’s amazing at the same time to see that happening.

As an upstart, you researched the job by sending a questionnaire to well-known clowns. Now that you’re something of a ‘statesman’ of clowning yourself, are you ever approached for advice?

I’m about to do the old man thing, and go: ‘Oh, it was much harder in my day!’ But it really is so much easier now - now you can just Google it. But yes, I do get asked for advice…which I’m happy to give, as I was once in the same situation.

So tell us a little about this new touring show you’re working on.

It’s called Tweedy’s Illusion Confusion. It’s a magic show with lots of new tricks and illusions. The premise is that my assistant never turns up, so I have to do lots of tricks without the help of my assistant. It’ll be at the Everyman in Cheltenham, at the Chipping Norton Theatre, at Swindon, Banbury and the Subscription Rooms in Stroud. [Keep watching www.tweedyswebsite.com for dates!]

There’s a question we’ve been dying to ask about Keef, your pet clothes iron, co-star of many Tweedy performances - is he the same model every time, or do you get the occasional upgrade?

Keef is like Doctor Who. He needs a ‘refresh’ every now and again.

Aladdin plays at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham from 30 Nov 2018 - 13 Jan 2019. Waiting for Godot plays at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham 7-16 Feb 2019. Visit www.everymantheatre.org.uk for booking and for more information.