Tweedy brings Cirque Berserk to Playhouse

Tweedy the clown, 'Cirque Berserk. Pic: Comp
Tweedy the clown, 'Cirque Berserk. Pic: Comp
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ROLL up. Roll up. He provides hilarious and highly skilled comedy in one of the most diverse and thrilling shows around and has earned praise from the likes of Liz Hurley and Helena Bonham-Carter - he even starred in the King’s panto, Goldilocks And The Three Bears back in 2007.

Meet Tweedy, one of the stars of Cirque Berserk, which tours to the Playhouse on Sunday for a three-day stop-over.

Tweedy could well be the most talented clown to visit the Capital for many years, except he’s not a clown.

“I provide the comedy element but I’m not a clown really,” he explains. “I’m more of a comic performer and my inspirations are people like Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. So it’s physical comedy I do, the way those performers used to do it.”

Born Alan Digweed, Tweedy is just one of the highlights of Cirque Berserk, a danger-filled spectacle set to amaze audiences of all ages.

Billed as Britain’s favourite contemporary thrill circus, ‘cirque-style’ skills combine with off-the-scale stunt action, never more so than when Cirque Berserk present the world’s most dangerous act, the legendary Globe of Terror.

The act sees three motorcyclists speeding at more than 60mph inside a steel cage. A stunt that is being seen live on stage in the UK for the first time.

Thankfully for Tweedy, he can leave that to the experts, he’s far more at home among the 30-odd strong troupe of jugglers, acrobats, aerialists, dancers and musicians.

But why, in a show that includes high-flying acrobats and a crossbow-firing contortionist, do people come out talking about a guy messing around on stage?

Which they inevitably do after seeing Tweedy.

“I try to combine things that other acts do successfully but also I think they like it because they can relate to the character in a way,” he says.

“The show’s full of individual acts that are amazing but people can’t comprehend trying to do those things themselves. My act probably makes people see what they would look like if they tried some of the stunts that the other Cirque Berserk performers are doing.”

Not that there aren’t risks attached to many of Tweedy’s set pieces. Each requires meticulous planning as well as a selection of props and audience participation.

“There are a few stunts, routines with ladders and bikes that fall apart. A lot of the show is about thrills and danger and I still have a bit of that, but I provide a comic aspect to it as well.

“The other acts are about trying to do their piece and look professional and I’m like an annoying little child really, stopping them from performing and getting in their way.

“I ask the audience to help me out with a few things in a few of my routines, really as a helping hand so that I can get onto the apparatus, rather than humiliating anyone. I’m the one that looks stupid, not them.”

Tweedy ‘joined the circus’ as a young clown in 1994, after asking advice of the old pros, a stroke of serendipity gave him his big break.

“I was working in Butlins. Now this was before the internet, which is pretty hard to imagine now, so I sent some questionnaires out to a few clowns to get some responses.

“I was lucky enough to get offered a job with Zippo’s, one of the best circuses around. Then in my first week the main clown in the act got stuck in traffic so I was on, did quite well and after that they kept me. It’s great to be a part of a circus and I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t enjoy it so much.”

Cirque Berserk, however, is different to any Big Top show Tweedy has done in the past.

“It’s a unique show, very exciting. It is a circus show but you also get those thrills – like the motorcycles in the Globe of Terror.

“Watching Cirque Berserk on the stage is far more exciting than being in a Big Top – the audience are being taken out of their normal environment and getting to witness that danger element they wouldn’t normally see.

“Plus the whole experience feels a lot stronger because you’re so much closer to the action than you would be anywhere else.”

Cirque Berserk, The Playhouse, Greenside Place, Sunday-Tuesday, various times, £19-£29.90, 0844-871 3014