We sent our theatre editor Lisa Thompson to review John Shuttleworth's latest touring theatrical extravaganza Out of Our Sheds and here are her thoughts:
I have disturbing news for shedworkers. John Shuttleworth is not happy in his shed.
He and his organ are in exile, dislodged from the lounge first to the garage where John, perched on an incrementally lowering 28-pack of Sprite from Netto, plays his organ on the deep freeze. Alas wife Mary’s repeated trips to the freezer for chicken nuggets drive him to seek sanctuary in the shed. He can find just two things to admire here: a picture of two hares boxing – ‘Naturally mind, no gloves’ – and the smell of white spirit, caused by daughter Karen’s failure to clean paintbrushes properly. Smells Like White Spirit follows. It is not quite grunge as we knew it.
At this point it also becomes abundant that as an audience we are a disappointment. Mr Shuttleworth claims to be happy playing anywhere with a trestle table, a nice tea urn and his petrol money paid but, while the faint gleam of teeth reveals lines of beaming faces in the dark, on stage, supported only by a bottle of Buttercup syrup, medicated sweets and a banana, Mr Shuttleworth’s attempts to get us singing along falls flat. In the prissy south we are far too self-conscious. It takes nearly two hours, before Austin Ambassador Y Reg finally stirs the audience to song. Behind me I can hear a man quietly whispering along, then with a roar it happens. Shuttleworth achieves critical audience mass, breaking through the Home Counties sound barrier.
But the sacrifices he makes to get to this point. He has shared with us his first bid on eBay, ‘watching a toaster with crumb tray, valuable extra bread width and a mid-cycle cancel button, and dreaming that we may soon be the owners’. It is followed by disappointment in the buyer ‘review’, with the seller falsely claiming willingness to be the Shuttleworths’ friends. A stakeout culminates with the Shuttleworths turning the full glare of the car lights on the house of the toaster sellers. The hand of friendship is not forthcoming. Just a twitch of the curtains.
He shares with us the fine art of acting: how to show distress while talking on a mobile. ‘My wife Mary’s been knocked over by a bus? What number?’. He sings of the trauma of everyday life in suburban Sheffield – a child wasting a perfectly good serving of cottage pie but John has started on his sweet. ‘I can’t go back to savoury,’ he chokes. Two tubs of spread inadvertently on the go. But all his singing and the anecdotes are mere distraction - this is a man hellbent on getting out of his shed.
‘I’m fed up with the shed,’ he says. ‘Why can’t I be in the lounge with Mary? It’s my lounge as much as hers.’ He brightens. ‘Of course, I can go in as a member of the public.’