sat 13/07/2024

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Les Dawson: Flying High / Boris III | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Les Dawson: Flying High / Boris III

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Les Dawson: Flying High / Boris III

'World king' as a young man; and a comedy legend

Jon Culshaw is spot-on as the comic Les DawsonSteve Ullathorne


Les Dawson: Flying High, Assembly George Square ★★★

Any opportunity to watch impressionist Jon Culshaw at work is not to be missed. Here he gives a spot-on rendition of the gruff-voiced comic who hosted BBC’s Blankety Blank in the 1980s and was famous for his mother-in-law gags and deliberately bad piano-playing: “All the wrong notes in exactly the right order.”

It’s a shame then that Tim Whitnall’s play (directed by Bob Golding) offers simply a run-through of a few of the low and high points of Dawson’s life and career, using the unambitious construct of him dictating his memoirs as he flies on Concorde to perform at a private gig in New York. There are also some pre-recorded inserts on the large TV screen onstage.

We see the poverty Dawson was born into in Collyhurst, near Manchester, his chance discovery of a talent for music and his love of words, and that he was a frustrated novelist. We also learn of the importance of his wife, Meg, in his career.

There are breakouts where Culshaw performs some scenes from Dawson’s life – such as as his stint as a pianist in a Paris brothel – and it’s nice to see old biddies Cissie and Ada given another run out with Culshaw playing both characters (Cissie was played by the late, great Roy Barraclough on TV), as well as hear some of his wonderfully crafted jokes.

The hour rattles along, but this could do with being twice the length to explore a man so much more complex than this biographical sketch conveys.

Boris III, Pleasance Courtyard ★★★

You may think that Boris Johnson and his government are beyond parody, but Adam Meggido (one of the team behind the very successful ....Goes Wrong series of plays) has made a decent fist of it with this scamper through a story set at the Prime Minister’s alma mater, Eton.

Set against the backdrop of the Falklands conflict, the story details the origin story of the boy who wanted to become “world king”, but first wants to be captain of the school, a responsible and much sought-after appointment.

When we first see him, Boris has just helped win a debating trophy for the school, which means he has neglected his duties playing the title role in Richard III, a production of which Eton boys are putting on jointly with a local girls’ school. It’s just days before curtain-up and he’s still not off the book, but has found time to start an affair with Katie, who plays opposite him as Lady Anne, while boffing her sister behind her back.

Meggido draws the obvious parallels between the boy and the man – the lying, the unfettered libido, the arrogance that tramples over people’s feelings – and gets a lot of comedy from it, using the neat device of a play within a play as the woefully underprepared Boris causes havoc on and off stage on opening night, not helped by the murderous intent of Agatha’s boyfriend who by now is aware of what Boris has done

It’s played as farce, but needs a bit more pep to fully work as that. The cast are good fun, but Harry Kershaw is superb as Boris, and has the PM’s vocal mannerisms down to to T.


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