|Photo credit: www.anguspictures.com|
If anyone has kids at a loose end on Easter holidays, my top tip right now is to catch Tweedy at Jacksons Lane in Highgate while you can. That said, there were plenty of adults there this afternoon without children in tow, for whether you are 3 or 103, the appeal of slapstick is timeless. I have seen Tweedy clowning around in Big Tops several times now, both as part of Giffords Circus (click here for post) and Cirque Beserk "circus for grown ups" (click here for post). I love the fact he has a sense of humour as gentle as his Scottish burr, and a pet iron called Keith: he just makes me laugh! Still, as much as a draw his name is, his function as a Big Top clown is to provide linkage and continuity between acts, covering changes in rigging and performers. Here at Jacksons Lane, a platform for contemporary circus, he was to take centre stage for an entire show. How would that work?
Simply brilliantly is the short answer. Tweedy took classic gags, some of which will be familiar if you have seen him before, and wove them into a story with a kafkaesque ridiculousness to it, as caretaker in a lost property office, never quite reaching the phone in time and going round in circles. Through the magic of Tweedy's clowning, inanimate objects took on a life of their own and he was very, very funny. Tweedy took clowning tropes and props, like the signature bowler hat, and gave them his own twist, like his quiff of red hair at the front. He is the reassuring rebuff to such declarations that "They don't make them like that any more!" Oh yes they do.
I went with four children in tow ranging from 5 to 11. Three of mine, who adore Tweedy already, and a friend of theirs who had never seen him in action before and had no clue what to expect. We certainly didn't expect a show long enough to warrant an interval, but there was never a dull or restless moment. As ever, cutting it fine from the trek up from South London, we arrived in the nick of time, and sat down at the front in an empty row. Of course, by rights that is asking for it, but fear not - Tweedy is an old hand in sizing up the audience and while there was some participation for sure, he made fun with, rather than fun of, those who chose to interact. It was a sheer joy to see old school slapstick and astonishing tricks so close up. Some tricks, like the dives and certain balancing acts, impressed because of the element of physical risk involved, while others, like the cigar box juggling, impressed through the sheer beauty of the skill. The kids were laughing the whole way through and were reluctant afterwards to pinpoint any favourite moment as "it was all funny Mum". I agree. Still, I had a soft spot for the scene where Tweedy donned red shoes that got his toes tapping, only to have them reclaimed while he was in his element, having fun. The shoes made me think of Moira Shearer's poignant classic (ballet) turn and clown boots rolled into one. Meanwhile the highlights for the older boys included the ladder routine and juggling precariously on a lethal rolla-bolla, while my 8 year old thought the best bit was when a violin bow was threaded through Tweedy's tongue (ew!). Meanwhile my youngest waved at Tweedy and thumbed at me when he was looking for volunteers, and it made her day to see Mummy then pulled up on stage too doing... well, find out for yourself!