John Shuttleworth

9th February 2015

 John Shuttleworth – A Wee Ken To Remember

at The Little Theatre

Joe Simons was there

“We all go a little funny when we get older.” What is probably best described to the layman as “an elderly Alan Partridge doing Bill Bailey”, or rather, “Count Arthur Strong goes musical”, John Shuttleworth has rocked audiences all over, from Windermere to Kendal, Guildford to Maidstone.

He came on stage halfway through eating a custard cream, which was, disappointingly, a lot softer than he expected. This would set the tone of the evening as the wonderfully bumbling, lovingly befuddled OAP Shuttleworth, the alter ego of veteran comic Graham Fellows, took the stage.

I went to see this Leicester Comedy Fest show at The Little Theatre, a venue I had not been to before and was surprised to find it just tucked away off of a main street I have used for years. My friend and I, nursing a pre-show drink, perused the merchandise which consisted of the usual fare of CDs, DVDs and fridge magnets to more age-appropriate items such as flasks, tea towels and travel rugs. Indeed Fellows gets the middle-England, Rover-driving, polo-neck jumper-wearing feel right down to the very detail!

The title of the show is actually the result of a typo, and Shuttleworth uses this to talk both about the titular Ken (neighbour/friend/booking agent) and some of his favourite weekends… Other rambling topics are digressed upon, such as how Cinnamon Grahams have lost his trust now that they have changed their name to Curiously Cinnamon (“it sounds like drugs!”) to the fact that Andy Murray doesn’t win anymore because he’s stopped doing “that angry face.”

The black stage adorned with only a stool, a microphone and his keyboard (“ballad setting ON!”), all the attention was on versatile singer-songwriter Shuttleworth as he ripped through (or rather, carefully primed apart) a genre-defying set, from rock ’n’ roll (“Yes, it is the devil’s music”) to calypso (“Get up and move your feet!”), playing a lot of his self-claimed ‘classics’ such as Y-Reg (an ode to his Austin Ambassador) and Can’t Go Back to Savoury Now (a poignant story of starting on your pudding before you’ve had your fill of the main).

Seeing as it is equal parts acting, stand-up and music, Fellows does a great job in never letting any of these facades slip, which is what you’d expect from a comedian who has been playing the same role for nearly 30 years. One feels inclined to almost review it as a performance piece rather than a stand up comedy musical. There’s something odd about watching a man, bearing in mind he’s been playing the same elderly character since he was in his 20s, gurning his way through offbeat performances and quirky musical numbers.

Fellows has been quoted as saying he can’t carry on playing the character forever; it must be hard to relinquish a side of yourself that is so prevalent and long lasting. Where does Fellows end and Shuttleworth begin? Who wears the slacks?! Maybe enough existentialism for one night…

Aside from some sound issues during the first act, the show was hilarious and genuine hearty laughs came by the bellyful. If you’re over 50, be it in mind, body or soul, and find yourself laughing and the slowly encroaching signs of dementia on the elderly then I highly recommend this show to you! Catch Sheffield’s answer to Supertramp on his tour until the end of March.

See also:

What’s on in Leicester

Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival 2015