John Shuttleworth: A Wee Ken to Remember | Leicester Comedy Festival review by Steve Bennett

John Shuttleworth: A Wee Ken to Remember

Leicester Comedy Festival review by Steve Bennett

Time stands still for John Shuttleworth, I was surprised to find that it had been more than four years since I’d last seen this mild-mannered singer-songwriter from the South Yorkshire village hall circuit, yet everything in his set remains reassuringly familiar. Even down to not quite knowing all his own songs seamlessly.

In that vein, this tour’s title A Wee Ken To Remember, is based on yet another poster misprint that his hapless manager and next-door-neighbour Ken Worthington apparently failed to notice, and which Shuttleworth tortuously tries to justify. The diminutive Ken once came last on New Faces, but otherwise there’s very little memorable about him. Inconsequential tales of him walking on their shared garden wall in Cuban heels is the best Shuttleworth can come up with.

Of course the limited horizons of Graham Fellows’s alter-ego is the joke. When he reverts to the weekends the show was meant to be about, it’s trips to the Keswick Pencil Museum or the local reservoir ‘to check the level’ that are the highlights. Recognition of the simple suburban pleasures score high on Shuttleworth’s appeal, and now the 55-year-old Fellows is about the age his alter-ego always seemed to be, the image sits well.

Funniest are Shuttleworth’s brushes with modern life – which is pretty much anything in the last 30 years. To him CDs are still too modern, while his musical references are Aswad, the Lighthouse Family and the Belle Stars. He’s distrustful of hummus and any coffee that isn’t instant. Still, he got himself on eBay, which proves an adventure in itself.

The character’s shambolic amateurishness as parochial raconteur and Yahama-playing ‘turn’, sometimes seems a cover for Fellows’ own hesitant performance, but certainly endears him to the audience. Counterintuitively for a character act, it’s as if there’s no pretence here; this is the lightest of entertainment reflecting the minutiae of life; and Fellows is thoroughly immersed in that small world.

Newer songs include Mingling With Mourners, about the unlikely joys of attending wakes; I Want To Be A Community Leader, making clear his ambition for that most ill-defined of positions; and A Late Arrangement For Early Tea, following a familiar theme of disruption to his domestic routine previously explored in Two Margarines On The Go and I Can’t Go Back To Savoury Now. As always the lyrics evoke familiar situations with devious rhyme. And melodically? ’Tempo 82’ he says as he calls up a pre-programmed track on his electronic organ, which he enlivens with the odd cowbell or similar jaunty effect, never afraid of overuse.

Of course the last ten minutes or so are a medley of his modest but much-loved hits, Austin Ambassador Y Reg, Pigeons In Flight, Eggs & Gammon, to which we all dutifully clap and sing along. He’s happier with our performance than Andy, the put-upon tech, forever begin berated for getting the lighting mood wrong. More glitterball and more flashing is the usual instruction. Oof!

Review date: 10 Feb 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Leicester Little Theatre

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