Interview: Alan Digweed, aka Tweedy the Clown, stars in Waiting for Godot

Alan Digweed aka Tweedy the Clown (c) Antony Thompson/TWM

Alan Digweed aka Tweedy the Clown (c) Antony Thompson/TWM - Credit: © Thousand Word Media

Never one to be typecast, the Cotswolds’ favourite clown is treading the boards this month in Samuel Beckett’s most iconic play

Waiting for Godot at Cheltenham's Everyman Theatre, starring Alan Digweed

Waiting for Godot at Cheltenham's Everyman Theatre, starring Alan Digweed - Credit: Archant

Two hungry, battered drifters wait by a dead tree, waiting for Mr Godot. He might turn up, but probably not.

This month the Everyman Theatre company is bringing Samuel Beckett’s iconic play to Cheltenham, starring – wait for it – none other than Alan Digweed...better known to Gloucestershire audiences of course as Tweedy – star of Giffords Circus and the Everyman’s pantos.

We were intrigued enough to demand some time with Alan to find out more...

How did the role of Estragon in Waiting for Godot come about, Alan?

Chatting with the chief executive of The Everyman Theatre, Mark Goucher, I said I’d like to try acting again. We looked at a number of plays, and then Mark suggested Waiting for Godot.

I first heard about this play from Bill Irwin. He is an American clown and actor who has won two Tony awards, one for his acting and one for his clown show. I was lucky enough to spend time with him when he was performing in the West End with ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf’ in 2006. As he didn’t know anyone in London he was happy to spend time with me, playing and passing on his clown knowledge.

He appeared in Godot as Lucky with Steve Martin and Robin Williams and has a deep love for Beckett, so much so that he is currently performing a show called ‘So Beckett’ in NY which he has devised.

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Years later, when I was performing in New York, he was appearing in ‘Waiting for Godot’ as Vladimir along with Nathan Lane (Estragon) John Goodman (Pozzo) and John Glover (Lucky). I thought it was amazing and have thought about doing the play ever since. So when Mark suggested Waiting for Godot, I jumped at the chance.

Are you nervous as to how you’ll be received by audiences in the Cotswolds who know and love you so well as Tweedy the Clown?

In a way there’s less pressure in doing a play because as a clown the character is yours, the material is yours; I have to write it, decide on what music to use, lighting, costume, etc. So with this it’s just really about my acting. I’m more nervous about how the play will be received as it’s a tricky play to get right.

I think it takes a bit of work to get the comedy right; the language of the play takes care of itself, the structure of the play takes care of itself but the comedy won’t take care of itself unless it’s delivered. Getting that balance right between the comedy and tragedy is the hard part. The play seems to divide people; some people hate it, some love it and then there’s the die-hard fans who are just as hard to please as they have an idea of how they think the play should be done and they’ll know all the lines so we can’t get any of them wrong.

So, yes, I am a bit nervous as to how it’ll be received.

How much of Tweedy’s physicality will you be bringing to the role?

As much as possible, play to your strengths. I saw Lee Evans in Pinter sketches recently (I got to meet him too) and he really brings his trademark physicality to his roles, which is what I hope to do with Estragon.

The director Paul Milton is also talking about the set being designed to utilise the physical aspects as much as we can.

What do you think of the character Estragon – do you think you’d like him if you happened upon him by a tree one day?

I’m drawn to low-status downtrodden characters. When I first started clowning it was the hobo (tramp) clowns that first drew my attention. Emmet Kelly was the most famous of this type, based on the hobos in America that used to ride the trains.

I think I would like him; I find him very intriguing. There’s also an old music hall feel to all the characters in the play.

It was a tough choice on whether to play him or Vladimir… I even asked Paul recently if he thought we’d made the right choice (I think we did). Estragon I think is the lower status of the two and is more physical.

Who else is in this production?

Jeremy Stockwell (as Vladimir), Mark Roper (Pozzo) and Murray Andrews (Lucky). Mark I’ve worked with before in Dick Whittington when he played the dame, so it’s good to have a familiar face.

What do you think of the description of Waiting For Godot as being ‘a play in which nothing happens, twice’?

I find it amusing. One of my favourite sitcoms, Seinfeld, was also described as a show where nothing happens. I think it’s because it’s about the characters and how they’re feeling instead of what happens.

I find it funny that the audience are watching a play about two characters waiting, and at the same time they’re waiting. So much of life is about waiting.

It’s a play that really makes you think, even if it is just “what on earth was that all about?” And of course there’s lots of action, but because of the absurdist nature of the play it’s hard to explain what has actually happened.

It’s often said that Vladimir and Estragon are like an ‘old married couple’. Do you think this is fair?

I think that’s a fair point; they’ve spent so much time together in the same way that an old married couple would, and they find each other annoying yet at the same time they can’t seem to part. They’ve also been likened to Laurel and Hardy which is another reason it appeals.

I know this is a rotten question – sorry! – but who is Godot?

Nobody really knows, not even Vladimir and Estragon.

Where else will we be able to see you in 2019?

I’ll be touring my new magic show ‘Tweedy’s Illusion Confusion’ February to April, then back at Giffords Circus May to September, so quite busy.

Waiting for Godot is at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, from February 7-16. There will be a post-show question and answer session with director Paul Milton and the cast on Tuesday, February 12.

See more of Tweedy the Clown in...

Tweedy’s Illusion Confusion

- Wednesday, February 20: Chipping Norton, The Theatre 2.30pm & 6pm

- Thursday, February 21: Greenwich Theatre 2pm

- Friday, February 22: Doncaster Cast 2pm

- Saturday, February 23: Oxford Pegasus 2pm & 4pm

- Sunday, February 24: Swindon Arts Centre 11am & 2pm

- Saturday, March 16: Banbury Mill Arts 11am & 2pm

- Friday, March 29: Cheltenham Everyman 6pm

- Saturday, March 30: Cheltenham Everyman 11am & 2pm

- April, Saturday 6: Stroud Sub Rooms 11am & 2pm

Giffords Circus

May 3-September 29

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