Clowning around: Cheltenham panto star

Round & About

Peter Anderson chats to Alan Digweed, AKA Tweedy The Clown, ahead of his star turn in Aladdin at Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre.

Q: How did you get into circus and clowning?

A: “I grew up in Aberdeen and had always had an interest in youth theatre. Career-wise I had wanted to be an animator, but then realised that perhaps what I wanted more was to be the character I was animating. I did a lot of research, writing around as this was in the days before computers and the internet and found a clown school in Bristol. I was saving up hard to go there and worked as a Butlins Redcoat which gave me lots of opportunities to try things, but sadly before I got the all the money.

There is a quote from Joseph Grimaldi the best way to learn how to be a clown, is to be one. So, I then wrote to a lot of circuses and got a job with Zippo’s Circus as a publicity clown basically doing the occasional children’s show and standing on street corners handing out leaflets. Then one day one of the main clowns got stuck in traffic and I had to step in they liked my work and I never looked back. I met Nell Gifford when she was a groom in another circus and when she started her own circus I asked her if I could have a job.”

Q: What was your first panto role?

A. “I have done panto alongside clowning nearly all my life. When I was younger, panto casts were bigger, and I played one of two broker’s men. I think I was down in Truro doing pantomime when I met the general manager from the Everyman Theatre [in Cheltenham] and he liked what I did, but it was a number of years before I made it on stage for the pantomime and in between times did a couple of years at the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon in 2000-01 and 2003-04.”

Q: Do you find your slapstick skills honed from clowning help?

A. “Undoubtedly, though I have always been a fan of both Laurel and Hardy and Norman Wisdom.

Q: Do you enjoy the interaction with children, is it similar?

A: “Oh yes, I think in both cases the children are almost like an extra member of the cast and it is great to get that level of engagement.”

Q: What memories of Christmas do you have growing up in Cirencester?

A: “My best memories are sledging in the amphitheatre, loads of people who don’t know each other drawn together for a single enjoyable experience.”

  • Aladdin, written and directed by legendary Blue Peter presenter and actor Peter Duncan, is on at Everyman Theatre from Friday, 30th November until Sunday, 13th January.