This article is from 2007.

Trip the Leit fantastic

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Trip the Leit fantastic Andrew Dawson went on a deeply personal journey for his last Fringe hit. Kelly Apter discovers that his new dance show goes straight for the entertainment jugular

‘Outstanding’, ‘masterly’, ‘deeply affecting’ and ‘life affirming’. Just some of the words used to describe Andrew Dawson’s 2005 Fringe show, Absence and Presence. That, coupled with the five-star reviews and awards the dance show received, means the heat is on for Dawson to achieve similar success with new solo show, Leitmotif. ‘Pressure?’ he laughs. ‘Mmm, just a bit. That’s why I didn’t go back to the Fringe in 2006, because it would have been too soon.’

There were also numerous venues clambering for Absence and Presence, which meant Dawson spent most of the past year globetrotting from New York to Zimbabwe. Based on the death of his father, the show had a universal appeal which touched all who saw it. When it came to creating Leitmotif, however, Dawson didn’t want to plunder his own soul quite so deeply.

Instead, he recruited several collaborators, including filmmakers, choreographers, actors and directors, to help put the show together. ‘I think it would have been hard to go on such a personal journey again,’ says Dawson. ‘It happened in a very special way in Absence and Presence, and this time I needed to be a bit freer. There are certainly some personal stories in Leitmotif, but I’m free to entertain as well, so hopefully there’s a balance between the two.’

Each of the collaborators explored how they themselves see Dawson. Some, like New York photographer Nitin Vadukul, have been good friends with him for many years. Others, like choreographer Sara Crow, have only known Dawson a short while. Needless to say, everyone had their own take on his personality. ‘It’s interesting because how people see you is not necessarily how you see yourself,’ says Dawson. ‘And as each piece was made, the collaborator was informed by the pieces which had already been created.’

Working with such a diverse range of people, Dawson had limited autonomy over the show’s content. Which, after the intensity of Absence and Presence, was exactly how he wanted it. ‘I was very conscious of letting it happen organically,’ says Dawson. ‘Rather than say it’s got to be a certain way. And some people gave more time than others, so their piece is longer or more dense.’

Nitin Vadukul saw Leitmotif as the perfect opportunity to make Dawson do exactly what he wanted. ‘Nitin wasn’t interested in what I had to say,’ explains Dawson. ‘He just had all sorts of wild ideas about what he wanted to see me do.’ The result is ‘Being a Bullet’, a short film during which Dawson is fired from a gun, rushes across the frozen north of New York State into New York City, and back into a gun again.

Some of the vignettes are more gentle. Having dealt with his father in his previous show, Dawson was keen to include his mother in this one. Something that Crow couldn’t wait to get her teeth into. ‘The last thing my mother said to me before she died was, “why are you wearing that awful purple jumper?”,’ says Dawson. ‘And when I told that to Sara Crow she said, “oh great!”’

Other collaborators involved in the project include Aardman Animations director Darren Robbie and Shockheaded Peter designer Julian Crouch. Why does working with Dawson hold such an appeal for them all? ‘I have a movement quality that people seem to respond to,’ suggests Dawson. ‘A physical style of moving that isn’t just a dancer, and not just an actor; it’s somewhere in between. A physical storytelling that I can do.’

For the second year running, Dawson will be returning to Aurora Nova, a venue he feels a close affinity with. ‘It just has a fantastic energy about it,’ he says. ‘And it’s a place where I feel very comfortable and relaxed. They’ve created such a unique identity there that I want to be associated with.’

Leitmotif, Assembly Aurora Nova, St Stephen’s Street, 0131 623 3030, 4–27 Aug (not 7, 14), 6.05pm, £12–£13 (£9–£10). Previews 2 & 3 Aug, £5.


  • 3 stars

A collection of short collaborated works performed by 2005 Award-winner Andrew Dawson. Previews 2 & 3 Aug. 'Part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2007'.

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