Comedy: John Shuttleworth @ the Lantern Theatre and The Crucible

There’s a new kid in town, playing his trusty Yamaha keyboard and telling tales of park cafes, relatives in Rotherham and the bus to Crookes. Well, actually, it’s an old kid returning for more…

Sheffield’s John Shuttleworth is back with a new tour called, erm, ‘John Shuttleworth’s Back’, which includes a date at the Lantern Theatre in January and The Crucible in February.
The title of his tour is not just stating the obvious; he is actually having trouble with his back. Mark Perkins is a big fan of ‘campachino’ coffee, loves to see Pigeons in Flight and has even been known to covet an Austin Ambassador Y-reg, so we sent him along to catch up with the man behind all this, Graham Fellows.

It’s been a while, but it’s somehow reassuring to have John Shuttleworth back in town. How has he been since we last heard from him?
Well, I was going to call the new tour ‘Old Four Eyes Is Back’, but I found out Mike Harding had done that before me! The theme running through the show is that John’s got a bad back, which chimes nicely with me, as I have got a bad back too.

What have you been up to in the time since John last played here in his hometown?

A lot of the year has been taken up with writing John’s book, called Two Margarines and Other Domestic Dilemmas. It’s a novel, and it’s a day in the life of John Shuttleworth. It’ll be on sale ahead of the publishing date at the live shows. John has spent time talking into a dictaphone as he goes about his day, solving the various domestic dilemmas he comes across. One of them being how to cope with his wife, Mary, who is annoyed with him for seemingly talking to himself all day.

There’s lots of new merchandise, which some people really seem to like. I kind of miss the old days, where John was a sort of cottage industry. We used to do mail out, with me and my kids mailing out flyers and sitting round sticking stamps on envelopes. Nowadays it’s just one big email. There’s some new BBC Radio material too. I’ve recorded a new episode of The Shuttleworths, which went out at Christmas. I’ve been busy performing as Graham Fellows too, on my Out Of Character tour, which is something I always knew I’d do one day, and I also did a whole tour reviving my first ever creation, Jilted John.

So, can you give us an idea of what’s in store for the new shows?
There’s a couple of new songs, plus some older established ones that are overdue for being revived. One of my problems is I’ve got too many songs, it’s hard to choose. I’m lucky with John’s character – if the show is all over the place, as it could well be, it doesn’t really matter – the ramshackle nature of it is all part of the show. If anyone fancies coming to see John outside Sheffield, I’m playing Buxton too, but I do love the Crucible. I have very fond memories of meeting Brian Glover when it first opened. I told him i wanted to be an actor, but he tried to put me off. “Oh, no! You don’t want to do that. It’s very hard work.”

Is there a bit of extra pressure when John comes home for a show?
I do worry occasionally that people I meet in Sheffield think he is real. They react to him as if he really does live in Sheffield. It’s great, but it does put me under pressure to get all the local aspects of John’s character just right. I always try to talk to my family in Sheffield before I play, just to find out if there are any issues that John should know about. It’s not so important in Devon, but I’d be in trouble if I got it wrong here. I’ve realised that the Sheffield I write about actually isn’t Sheffield, it’s Louth, where I live. When I visualise the man cutting a key, it’s the man in Louth in my mind, not Sheffield. It’s a kind of fantasy Sheffield that I write about. A market town version of Sheffield.

Have you any future plans for John beyond the tour?
I might do a book signing tour in autumn, now John’s a proper author. I did start making a film over ten years ago about John and an electric car. I actually filmed some at the sheltered accommodation in Broomhill, with my dad, and I want to finish that and tour with it. I love my job. I’m in this niche world of having a character, John, who I can tour with, but I can also be myself, and play shows as Graham Fellows. I can sell some seats, and sell a few CDs, It’s lovely. It’s how I began and it’s how I wanted to end up really. I do feel a little uneasy with selling out the City Hall or the Crucible, so maybe before too long, John will end up playing the hospice for real.

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