Dead Ringers (TV recording): BBC TV Centre, London, 2007
The Now Show (BBC Radio recording): BBC Radio Theatre, London, 2008
The Great British Take Off (with Bill Dare): Gilded Balloon Teviot, Edinburgh, 2018
Play: Les Dawson: Flying High: Assembly, George Square, Edinburgh, 2022
Jon Culshaw: Imposter Syndrome: Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023, Gilded Balloon Teviot, Edinburgh, 2023
Play: Lena: Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023, Assembly George Square, Edinburgh, 2023
Jon Culshaw is a premier celebrity impressionist. Famed for many accurate impersonations, I first saw him star alongside Jan Ravens, Mark Perry, Kevin Connolly and Phil Cornwell at a TV recording of Dead Ringers at the BBC TV Centre in 2007. The show took a very long time to record and towards the end of the night, Culshaw walked onto the set between takes requesting and impersonating celebrities suggested by the flagging audience which livened things up considerably. I had never been interviewed by Michael Parkinson until that night.
Another recording, this time for radio, that I attended was The Now Show in 2008 featuring Steve Punt, Hugh Dennis, Jon Holmes, Emma Kennedy, Mitch Benn and Culshaw was the special guest that night. As ever with the Now Show, a piece of paper with a question for the audience to answer was left on the chair before the start of the recording. As I sat down, I picked up the sheet and read ‘What is the most unfortunate thing that has ever happened to you at school?’ I wrote down my answer which was ‘One afternoon when I was in the sixth form common room, I fell asleep and when I awoke somebody had tippexed my glasses and I thought I had gone blind!’ To close the recording (which was broadcast on Radio 4), Culshaw read out what I had written whilst impersonating Alan Bennett!
I saw Culshaw at the Edinburgh Fringe in August 2018 who was interviewed by legendary comedy writer/producer Bill Dare from BBC Radio 4’s Dead Ringers. The show delivered unscripted, spontaneous comedy and career conversation as politicians, sports personalities and celebrities are up for roasting. Some of my particular favourites were Les Dawson, Terry Wogan, Michael Parkinson and Richard Wilson as Victor Meldrew. Culshaw’s list of accurate impersonations is vast and the audience helped choose which characters appear and what direction the show took. Culshaw had devised clever routines for each impression which made the show tight and very, very funny.
A highlight of the Edinburgh Fringe programme for 2022 was Culshaw starring as Les Dawson in a new play written by Tim Whitnall, Les Dawson: Flying High. The play is a series of biographical events with Dawson on stage for the whole hour on a flight talking about his career. Behind him is a giant screen pinpointing areas in his life that made him a household name. Culshaw impersonates all the characters on screen from Alan Whicker and Hughie Green to Cissy and Ada. But it was Culshaw’s faultless impersonation and performance of Dawson the comedy genius that breathed life into the play.
Culshaw’s 2023 Edinburgh Fringe solo show was the inspired Imposter Syndrome. The master impressionist was so precise with his impersonations that he literally became them: politicians (Boris Johnson, Donald Trump), Sports stars (Gary Lineker, David Beckham), comedians (Alan Carr, Les Dawson) and musicians (an extraordinary accurate Liam Gallagher). The material was well written and hysterically funny, and I could have watched Culshaw perform all evening. The show was a delight.
The impersonator also starred in the play, Lena, as Hughie Green. Lena Zavaroni was a massive singing child star on the 70’s, made famous by the TV series, Opportunity Knocks hosted by Hughie Green, the X Factor and Simon Cowell of its day. Zavaroni had her career short-lived tragically dying from anorexia at the age of 35. Erin Armstrong was outstanding as the child star, with a great cast and the play was inspiring, heartbreaking and poignant extremely well written by Whitnall.