Before I begin the review, I must comment on the handling of the audience at the venue on my visit. This is one of the larger venues at the festival, and the show began almost 30 minutes late. Many people attending the Fringe Festival book shows quite close together, and this delay could have been the cause of people leaving the show part way through. Not good for the artist and disturbing for the remaining audience. Assembly, this must be improved!
Les Dawson was a favourite of mine, and I have childhood memories of watching his numerous shows on TV. This play follows Dawson’s life, beginning with his childhood and moving through his career’s ups and downs.
Dawson is played by Jon Culshaw who needs no introduction, as his mimicry is legendary. To set the scene, a large 1980’s style TV is positioned at the back of the stage, with a piano and a leather high backed chair. The TV acts as a screen to introduce some pre-recorded scenes with Dawson’s best characters that assists with the narrative of the play, but also provides a backdrop for some of the later scenes.
Through the play, Culshaw captures Dawson’s wit and poetic tongue, and we see favourites such as Cissie and Ada, and Dawson’s infamous piano playing, but it felt like something was missing. There were gags thrown in, as we expect any story involving Les Dawson to be laced with humour, but somehow, I expected more. We have come to think of Dawson as a stand-up comedian (even though he was far more than this), with his sharp wit and eloquent delivery, and this is in evidence in the show, but there is far more narrative than wit, and I wonder if some of the audience members exiting, were in fact voting with their feet. There is no doubt that Culshaw does an excellent job with Dawson as an impression, but the show is missing some sparkle, and the laughs just don’t come often enough.
For Dawson fans, I would not want to dissuade you from going along but go with the knowledge that this is not a stand-up routine, this is the story of Les.
The show runs until the 28th August at Assembly George Square. To book tickets go to https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on#q=%22Les%20Dawson%3A%20Flying%20High%22
Reviewer: Caroline Worswick
Reviewed: 9th August 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★