Clowning around with Albert Halls pantomime cast

The Bolton News: Vickie Scullard tries out juggling with Damien Patton, centre, and Tom Rolfe as Spick and Span Vickie Scullard tries out juggling with Damien Patton, centre, and Tom Rolfe as Spick and Span

I WOULD like to play it cool and say that I have never had any experience in circus-related activity — due to my brilliance in academia — but that would be a lie.

I have attended a circus workshop or two in my time thanks to a mother who, I’m sure, secretly wanted me to be a clown.

So when I was asked by my news editor to go to be taught how to juggle and ride a unicycle with Tom Rolfe and Damian Patton — aka Spick and Span from this year’s Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime at The Albert Halls — I was perhaps a bit too silently smug that I had got off lightly compared to my colleague, Liam Thorp, who had to dress up as a dame.

But what I initially forgot was that my talent is limited to juggling — and I had not tried it since I was about 14.

So it did not cross my mind until I saw the massive juggling batons in Tom’s hands that I’d probably end up taking someone’s eye out with them.

Meeting Tom and Damian was surreal because they are every bit as much of a clown as their characters.

Their rubbery faces were a delight to see and put me at ease straight away — despite the massive unicycle they were wheeling.

Damian, who is from a family of performers — his uncles are the Chuckle Brothers — was keen to put my mind at rest.

“Don’t worry. If you’ve juggled before you’ll be fine. It’s just like riding a bike,” he said.

The pair first gave me a bit of a crash course on juggling — thankfully with hacky sack balls rather than batons — and it all came flooding back to me and I managed to get a few loops of the balls for the photographer to capture.

The unicycle may as well have been 10 feet tall because I could not get on it due to my modest stature.

The lads had to hoist me into it, and my feet only just managed to turn the pedals, so I made them hold on to me while I tentatively had a practice. “Just pedal down the line on the stage,” I was told once the camera was rolling.

Not a chance! Damian and Tom ended up having to wheel me down the line on the stage while I was trying not to laugh, fall off and wreck any props or scenery.

Once I got my feet back firmly on the ground, I realised that my career choice of not being a clown was probably the best decision of my life (sorry mum), and despite half-success with the juggling, I’m definitely going to leave acrobatics to the experts.


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