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Graham Fellows on…John Shuttleworth’s ‘Out of Our Sheds’ tour

Published by: Sue Casson on 31st Jan 2013 | View all blogs by Sue Casson

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As John Shuttleworth, the former sweet factory security guard from Walkley, South Yorkshire, turned radio, TV and recording star, embarks on a national tour, accompanying songs such as ‘Pigeons in Fight’ on his Yamaha keyboard and sharing his thoughtful observations on village shops, the joys of midweek, and supermarket check-out etiquette, Graham Fellows, his alter ego,  found time for a quick chat backstage just before a preview at Stamford Arts Centre.

GF          I started doing 20 minute spots with John in comedy clubs in London and decided to get an hour-long show together. I performed John Shuttleworth’s ‘Guide to Stardom’ at the Edinburgh Festival in 1992 and was lucky enough to get nominated for the Perrier Award (he was pipped to the post by Steve Coogan and John Thompson), so then I was off doing gigs and tours and that’s kind of what I’ve done ever since. I used to do them once a year and now it’s every two years but this one is sort of stretching out. Other tours have been called ‘Miditations’, ‘One Foot in the Gravy’, ‘Pillock of the Community’, ‘2000 & John’, The ‘Minor Tour - and other Mythological Creatures’ - I just love a good pun (or a bad one). For this tour, I saw the Rolling Stones’ ‘Out of our Heads’ album cover, and thought of the title ‘Out of our sheds’ with John talking about sheds but, in the end, he doesn’t talk that much about sheds. I keep trying to introduce more shed material. In fact, tonight, I’ll try to.

SC          What do you enjoy most about being John?

GF          Well, the facetious answer would be not being him any more when I come offstage and pull off his sweater, but that’s unfair and untrue because John’s been very good to me. You see – I talk about him in the third person which is a bit frightening! It’s a lovely escape from one mundane world into another because, on paper. John’s life is very drab and suburban but I love playing places like this. It’s great. You get free, complementary sandwiches and everyone is great and you get up on stage, hopefully make people laugh and you come off and get paid for it! I trained as an actor and performed in theatre for several years with moderate success. I never got to the RSC, which I wanted to do. I’m still waiting for the call, but my big problem is remembering lines. I had some hypnosis for memory loss, which worked to some extent but, of course, with John Shuttleworth, it doesn’t matter if I forget the words to some extent because that’s part of the character.

SC          Anything you dislike about playing John?

GF          If I do him too much, my head goes a bit, but the only thing that gets me down about touring is the travelling. Everyone says that but it’s true. You’re in the car a lot of the time. We try to pace it so that’s it’s perhaps three gigs then you go home for a couple of days but there’s a stretch coming up with about nine gigs in a row down in the south west so that’s going to be a bit tiring.

SC          Do audiences around the country react differently to John?

GF          No. They don’t. All I would say is that they are more reserved in some areas and more up for it and interactive in others. In Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, and Glasgow, the big cities, audience is more likely to be quite raucous. I played Pocklington as a warm up the other day and now Stamford. The audiences are more reserved in smaller towns, but seem to enjoy the show just as much.

SC          Does the show evolve much during the tour?

GF          I try and change it every night. One of the reasons for that is that I’m a perfectionist and I’ve never got it right yet. Sometimes I feel I get close, but I always come off stage and think, ‘Oh, why didn’t I say that? It’d have been funnier if I’d said that’, if something goes wrong. I’m always trying to hone little stories that I have. You always try to add new bits to old material and see if they can improve it and sometimes some old material will suddenly not feel right any more so I’ll drop it.

SC          Finally, is there anything you’d like to do with John that you haven’t done yet?

GF          We’re trying to put him in a cartoon and I’d like to make another feature film. We’ve done two films so far - ‘It’s Nice up North’ and ‘Southern Softies’.  Both were bought by Sky Arts and are still available on DVD. A guy called Keven Baldwin has been doing drawings of John for ages and he made a short film called ‘Unaccompanied Lady’ which is quite nice and appeared at a few film festivals. We’re trying to develop it into a full-length cartoon so that we can get a TV series but it isn’t easy. Very few cartoons are commissioned in Britain. This one would be very cheap to make because I’d be providing all the voices and he’s doing all the drawings so if we can get it to a certain length, hopefully we can get commissioned to do more. I’m trying to get another radio series at the moment and there will be more tours, so who knows? I’m still enjoying doing him. I’m probably catching him up. I’m 53 now and John’s about sixty (I try to be non-specific about his age), but when I started, I was 25 and he was 46, so you see how we’ve narrowed the gap. Will that do you? I’d better go and get ready.

John Shuttleworth ‘Out of our Sheds’ tours until 30th May.

For further details, please see www.shuttleworths.co.uk or follow John’s comments on Twitter (@johnshuttlewrth)


February 2013

Fri 1st SHEFFIELD Crucible 0114 249 6000
Sat 2nd LIVERPOOL Playhouse 0151 709 4776
Sun 3rd BRISTOL Tobacco Factory 01179020060
Mon 4th BATH Komedia 0845 293 8480
Tues 5th GREAT TORRINGTON,Plough 01805 624624
Weds 6th FALMOUTH Princess Pavilion 01326 211222
Thu 7 WIMBORNE Tivoli 01202885566
Fri 8th WINCHESTER, Theatre Royal 01962 840440
Sat 9th CANTERBURY Gulbenkian
Tues 12th LEEDS, City Varieties 0113 2430808
Thu 14 LEICESTER Little Theatre 0116 255 1302
Fri 15th BUXTON Opera House 0845 127 2190
Sat 16th HERTFORD Hertford Theatre 01992 531500
Tues 19th/Weds 20th/Thurs 21st LONDON Leicester Square Theatre 08448 733433
Fri 22nd NEWCASTLE, Tyne Theatre 0844 4939999
Weds 27th LOUTH Riverhead 01507 600350 (ALL PROCEEDS TO FROGLIFE)
Thurs 28th DURHAM Gala 0191 332 4041

March 2013

Sun 3rd March CHELTENHAM, Town Hall 0844 576 2210
Mon 4th NEWCASTLE UNDER LYME New Vic 01782 717962
Weds 6th March YORK Grand Opera House 0844 847 2322
Thursday 7th March CAMBRIDGE Junction 01223 511 511
Tues 19th COLCHESTER Arts Centre 01206 500900
Fri 22nd LANCASTER, Dukes Theatre 01524 598507
Thursday 28th March GLASGOW Citizens Theatre 0141 429 0022
Friday 29th March STIRLING Macrobert Arts Centre 01786 466666

April 2013

Thu 25th SCARBOROUGH, Spa Theatre 01723 357 869
Fri 26th TUNBRIDGE WELLS, Trinity 01892 678678
Sat 27th WORTHING, Connaught 01903 206206

May 2013

Weds 8th WOLVERHAMPTON Civic Hall 0870 3207000
Thurs 9th HEREFORD Courtyard 01432 340555
Thurs 30th OLDHAM Coliseum 0161 6242829 

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