John Shuttleworth: One Foot In The Gravy
Show type: Tour
The confused amateurishness of 'versatile singer-songwriter' John Shuttleworth is, of course, all part of his charm. But some of the more under-rehearsed shenanigans in High Wycombe, the fifth night of his current valedictory One Foot In The Gravy tour, threatened to take the edge off an otherwise fine comic show.
Several songs were temporarily aborted as Shuttleworth became lost for words, and sometimes the flow of typically anodyne banter became too muddled as badly-explained set-ups left the audience playing catch-up. Yet despite all this, the enjoyable two-hour show was a clear success, delivering everything his dedicated fans would expect.
Highlights were, as always, the songs, with their clunking, crass lyrics that mistake rhyming for poetry. Shuttleworth's unpredictable couplets always provide the best moments, his rhyming of potatoes and waiters couplet being a particularly inspired moment.
Though the loose thread binding the show together was nominally the threat of global catastrophe, the feel was as endearingly parochial as always. In John's eyes, the worst thing about the chaos-hit railways is that they don't sell leaf tea in the buffet car any more.
And when it comes to brilliantly inconsequential songs, the composition about Coronation Street's Betty Turpin unwrapping a toffee in the library, must surely rank as one of the finest ever written.
Almost threatening to steal the show, though, was rock and roll lecturer Brian Appleton, the latest incarnation of Shuttleworth creator Graham Fellows. A revelation to a wider audience than would have seen his Edinburgh festival debut, this impressive and well-rounded comic character, embittered by a lifetime of failure, won many instant fans.
He does share some of the best aspects of Shuttleworth's character - the unselfconsciously local reference point and painfully poor rhymes (this time we got the inspired coupling of Anadin with harridan) - yet is witty and original enough to keep even a Smiths send-up out of dangerous Barron Knights territory.
Fears that the upstart would overshadow the star of carvery and sheltered accommodation were banished, though, when Shuttleworth returned to the stage for a final half-hour in which he rattled through all the crowd-pleasing classics such as Pigeon In Flight, Y-Reg and the untouchable puns of Can You Ken Ken?
It was a storming climax - although the audience were a little reluctant to get into the swing of things - which easily forgave some of the earlier fumbles.