Arts & culture

Private View

Impressionist Jon Culshaw talks piano tracks on repeat, dreaming about being a Time Lord and following the Fringe flyers

Who’s on your reading list at the moment and why?

I’ve been reading Beyond Top Secret by Timothy Good. The whole UFO phenomena I find so intriguing. I’m not interested in the crackpot conspiracy gubbins, but the small number of utterly inexplicable cases are fascinating! “The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it’s stranger than we can imagine”, as Arthur C. Clarke once said.

Any must-see exhibitions?

I always love a stroll around HMS Belfast at London’s Bankside, or Brunel’s SS Great Britain at Bristol. They give you a stirring sense of what it must have been like to be at sea during those eras. A visceral thing to imagine!

If money was no object and you could acquire any artwork in the world – what would it be?

I’d think the ‘Raft of the Medusa’! I remember the art lesson in 6th Form, when Mr Lewis the teacher talked about it. He spoke like a high velocity Brian Sewell. It’s so full of frantic motion whilst being static. As a 10 year old I once recreated it in the bath with a bread board and action figures.

What film last blew you away?

I watched Gladiator again the other week. I have another look every two or three years. An awesome film – I love how Ridley Scott creates his worlds! I narrated Terry Pratchett’s City Watch series recently. I imagined it as a gritty medieval world that Ridley Scott would have filmed.

Name a podcast to keep you entertained on a long journey.

Ooh, lots of them. The News Agents with Jon Sopel and Emily Maitlis and The Rest is Politics with Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart. Good meeting of minds and a nice, more informal way to get at the news. 

What TV programme or series can you not stop talking about?

Still Doctor Who I think after all these decades! It never fails to supercharge the imagination. Being a Time Lord is the kind of life I’d like! Any planet in the universe at any time in its existence! Plenty to drink up there.

Edinburgh Fringe show, Lena. Credit: Benjamin Ealovega

Who are you looking forward to seeing live on stage?

At this stage, I must be absolutely honest, I really have no idea! With the Fringe I like to embed into the city, get into the rhythm of the festival and see which posters leap out and which flyers I’m given and follow the barometer of that. I’ll always take a flyer! I love the real grassroots shows to be found – in the pub venues and shipping crates! There’s such a truth that comes with them. Reminds you of your starting out days, something that’s always important to cling onto.

Who is your current ‘most played’?

It’s a piano track called ‘Out of the Frame’ by Philip Aaberg. It stuck on repeat play recently and I saw no reason to switch it off. It was haunting and optimistic at the same time. It had a way of making you look to the future with a hopeful sense, though I couldn’t put my finger on why.

Who is your one-to-watch?

I would have to say Erin Armstrong, who plays the title role in Fringe show Lena. I’ve always been amazed by her performances. She plays Lena with such an engaging empathy and wonderful instincts with the dialogue. Some actors show characters when they’re strong. Others show them when they’re vulnerable. Erin portrays Lena showing both those feelings at the same time! I really do think she’s set to do great things. And she has an amazing voice that could command the Albert Hall.

Jon Culshaw performs his Fringe show ‘Imposter Syndrome’ at Gilded Balloon: Debating Hall, from 2nd – 27th August. He also stars alongside Erin Armstrong in ‘Lena’ – from 3rd – 28th August at Assembly: Gordon Aikman Theatre