How Jon Culshaw got serious about Bowie


It is two years since David Bowie, death and on the occasion of the anniversary of the BBC World Service radio, has ordered a game on the set of his last album, Blackstar. Actor Jon Culshaw has moved beyond the comedy, the impressions specializes in the to create a portrait of the artist in his last weeks in the place he loved so much – a recording studio.

It may seem surprising, but up to what David Morley wrote his play The Final take: Bowie in the Studio, nobody seems to have portrayed Bowie, in the long term, in a piece of theatre.

There had been countless brief identity theft in commercials and comedy sketches on radio and TELEVISION. Some of those who have been by Culshaw, of Dead Ringers fame, who is taking a central role in the Final take.

It is a semi-monologue, the other, the main role being Bowie’s friend and producer Tony Visconti (played by American actor Martin T Sherman).

Getty Images

“But, of course, to do a quick 45-second gag is totally different from a piece about David the past few weeks,” said Culshaw. “And I am pleased to recognize the great Bowie impersonator for comic effect has always been Phil Cornwell who did so brilliantly on Steve Wright in the Afternoon on Radio 2. But this game isn’t about getting laughs.”

The Final catch was recorded late last year in a studio in London, with Dirk Maggs about the staging. Culshaw, said it took some time to find the right performance.

David Bowie dies of cancer aged 69

Obituary: David Bowie

Six decades of David Bowie

David Bowie: A life in pictures

“I play David, when he is in The Magic Shop recording studio in New York, at first, we tried to tape everything with the lights low for a laid-back, jazz club feel and sit down. But it does not work: it sounded stilted. I needed to get up and move around a little, even if the listener will not really get it.

“The game is half of what is going on in David’s head and half of her conversation with Tony Visconti. They have been long-time colleagues and true friends then Tony is deeply worried when David told him he had cancer. In all, about 80% of what is in the script comes from what David has written or said in interviews.”

Culshaw to investigate the role through these interviews. They have been “invigorating,” he says.

Getty Images

“He has such a personality. However, it was sad, I enjoyed the study of what he said and understand how his brain worked. It was wonderfully generous of people surveyed,” says Culshaw.

Culshaw said that he had to work in a completely different way at the time of giving his usual “superficial” to the comedy of the performance.

And, above all, he said that the accent that he had adopted just right.

“David had begun with the South London accent, but it was certainly outside in the suburbs – and of course, he had spent much of the second half of his life in the united States. A comic take on Bowie’s voice could be very exaggerated, but if anything we under-evaluated.”

But also essential is respect for the music legend – and his family.

Gavin Evans

“At one point in the script that I was going to do a little bit of acappella singing a little bit of Lazarus from the Blackstar album. But it was the only thing that the Bowie real estate has asked us not to do it,” says Culshaw.

“We show that David knows that he has cancer, but is convinced that he won’t dim his energy or destroy his creativity. This is the essence of the play and I think we all found it haunting. Even at the end he is at the top of his game.”

Culshaw said everyone involved in the thought of David Morley to play as a tribute to Bowie. “I am delighted to be giving a performance which is not widely comic, but I was a little nervous at first about the capture of David humanity”, he adds.

But, Culshaw concludes, a special maintenance “gave me courage”.

“David told me that if you feel totally comfortable in the work that you do, then maybe you are not doing the right thing. He always says go a little further in the water than you feel you need to. It was the rule he lived and created for so I tried to do the same thing.”

The Final take: Bowie in the Studio of the BBC World Service radio on January 30, 1130-1200 GMT and is then available on the BBC iPlayer Radio.

Follow us on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts, on Instagram to bbcnewsentsor email

More on David Bowie
BBC Music home page
Read all the stories of the music