Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
1:00 AM 20th March 2024

Q&A: Tweedy The Clown

All Photos: Theatre Royal York
Tweedy All Photos: Theatre Royal York
Tweedy the clown is well-known for his 15-year tenure at Giffords Circus and renowned for his physical comedy and slapstick prowess. He has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to circus and the community. He plays Bottom and is comedy advisor for a new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at York Theatre Royal from April 9-13.

How did you get your name Tweedy and how did your trademark red tuft come about?

My last name is Digweed, when I first joined the circus (Zippo’s Circus) I called myself Weedy the clown but I was told there was already a Weedy so the boss of the circus (Zippo) suggested adding a T to make it Tweedy. It just felt right and had a Scottish connection too.
When I first started I wore big traditional make up big shoes etc, I never really liked wigs so died all my hair red. During a show a did a routine where I’d fall into a birthday cake, I’d lie there for a really long time, I found it got good laughs just to lie there. One day however the candles didn’t go out, I was lying there thinking this is getting a bigger reaction that usual, I then smelt singed hair and realised my hair was on fire. Luckily I wasn’t hurt, all that was left was a red tuft which I really liked the look of so I kept it. I like to think of it as a modern equivalent of a red nose as I no longer where a clown nose.

Is this your first Shakespeare production? Are you prepared for endless jokes about people seeing your Bottom?

This is my first performing production of a Shakespeare play, I have directed comedy for Redshift Theatre’s Much Ado about nothing a long time ago.
I am armed and ready for endless Bottom jokes.

As well as playing Bottom you are ‘comedy advisor’ on a production the director wants to be ‘an accessible Shakespeare show that will appeal to a present day audience’- are you going to rewrite Shakespeare with added physical comedy and slapstick?

The beauty of physical comedy is you don’t need to rewrite anything you just add slapstick to what’s already there. As a clown I find physical comedy appeals to all ages and generations, so I’m excited to add this element to the production.

Waiting for Godot with Jeremy Stockwell
Waiting for Godot with Jeremy Stockwell
Tell us about the prospect of working again with Jeremy Stockwell, first on Waiting for Godot and now A Midsummer Night’s Dream in which he plays Puck.

Jeremy and I come from similar backgrounds, we love to play and draw the audiences in so they feel involved and of course create mischief, so really looking forward to having lots of fun.

How old were you when you saw your first circus and what was your reaction?

I was about five I think, I loved the clowns, it’s always been about the clowns but not just circus, movie clowns like Laurel and Hardy and theatre clowns. I was always more drawn to the theatre and music hall clowns but circus was the only place really I could go to learn.

You’ve spent 15 years as a clown with Giffords Circus, how did you get your first job as a clown?

The first circus I joined was Zippo’s Circus, I was due to do a course in clowning at Bristol when the school went bust so as personal research (no google back then) I sent out questionnaires to any clown I could get the address of. I got two back one from a clown in a show Cirque Du Soleil which I’d never heard of and one from Zippo of Zippo’s Circus. He answered my questionnaire and put at the bottom “The best way to learn is on the road from other clowns and by doing it” he then offered me a job as a publicity clown, doing school shows, hospital visits handing out fliers in the street. The first week the main clown got stuck in traffic so jumped in and covered, I was then offered a job in the circus as a proper clown.

As well as touring your own show, clowning around in other circuses and playing pantomime dame in Cheltenham you’ve been a comic stuntman at Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris – how was that experience?

It was a really interesting experience as most of the cast were real cowboys and Native Americans with no performing experience, the main characters were actors.
They were confused when I first joined as I couldn’t really ride very well and they were all probably born on the saddle of a horse. After my first show where I did lots of slapstick they understood why I’d been hired to be on the show and taught me to ride better and to trick ride. It was loads of fun, I’d got paid extra for stunts so would be forever inventing new ways to fall off a horse or be dragged behind a stagecoach.

You once said about being a clown that “I feel I was born to do it; I love it and can’t imagine not doing it”. Surely there must be a downside to life as a clown.

There certainly is, DIY is a nightmare and I constantly break things. I often have an inner dialogue of not now, this would be great if I was on stage. But it’s a small price to pay.

How did you feel receiving a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to circus and the local community in the honours list?

Initially confused, I nearly didn’t get it, for some reason they couldn’t get hold of me to accept it, they phoned my agent who thought it was a joke. By the time I got the email to accept the deadline had passed, lucky they didn’t stick to the deadline.When it was announced I felt very proud, it’s not something as clown I expected. It’s also good news for circus as it’s the first time it’s been specifically for circus opposed to entertainment.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: York Theatre Royal, 9-13 April. Box office 01904 623568 |