THE ghosts of the great clowns of the past haunt Alan Digweed’s publicity shot - Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd are all present.
Digweed, better known to audiences simply as Tweedy, is arguably the UK’s top exponent of physical comedy, the king of the clowns if you like, but there’s more to what he does than just slapstick and clowning he says.
“I’m not a clown really, I’m more of a comic performer. Keaton and Lloyd were huge influences on me. I love their style of comedy and incorporate a lot of it into my act, that element of risk as well as tragedy.”
The performer, who boasts Helena Bonham-Carter, Liz Hurley and Paul Merton as fans, explains, “Physical comedy and clowning are kind of the same thing, it’s just that the word clowning conjures up different images nowadays than it did in the days of Chaplin and Keaton, they were called clowns, and are clowns, but are not what the general public think of as clowns now.”
Tweedy’s clowning career started in 1994 with Zippos Circus and it’s been a while since he last brought his one-man show, Lost Property, to the Capital. Eight years to be exact, the year after he starred in Goldilocks And The Three Bears, the King’s 2007 panto.
This week, he returns as part of Cirque Berserk. “I’m still doing the same sort of nonsense,” he laughs.
Direct from five sold-out seasons in London’s Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, Cirque Berserk boasts of being ‘Britain’s favourite contemporary thrill circus’. This week it brings a brand-new production to the Festival Theatre from Thursday.
Combining contemporary circus skills with ‘off-the-scale’ stunt action, Cirque Berserk is a danger-filled spectacle featuring ‘the world’s most dangerous circus act’, the Globe of Terror, in which four motorcyclists speed at more than 60mph around a circular steel cage.
The show also features a troupe of more than 30 jugglers, acrobats, aerialists, dancers and musicians.
“It’s the one theatre in Edinburgh I haven’t played,” says Tweedy, who splits his year between appearing on stage and in the more traditional circus home, the Big Top.
“It’s great to do both,” he says. “In the theatre you can be a lot more subtle, there’s more focus and the great thing about this show is that we have all the acts you’d see in the Big Top.”
That includes a springboard act that occasionally find themselves performing between the lights in some venues. Talk about risk.
“It is great to bring the circus into a theatre, that thrill of seeing it live, with that element of risk right in front of your eyes. You’re not going to see that anywhere else, and that’s the beauty of it.”
There’s only one drawback, he smiles, “Physical comedy does get harder as you get older, like falling off ladders, things like that, and stages are a lot harder to land on than a circus ring.”
Cirque Berserk, Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, Thursday-Saturday, various times, £20.50-£30.50, 0131-529 6000