John Shuttleworth: A Man With No More Rolls

Everyman Theatre, Liverpool
Thursday 17th February, 2011

Reviewed by Sarah Ryan

With a large glass of red in hand, I take my seat next to a palpably ‘we‘ve just had a row’ couple, full of anticipation for a heart warming, belly laugh of a performance. Such is the power of John Shuttleworth, the aforementioned frosty couple managed to reach a lukewarm truce during the second half of the performance, somewhere between his stimulating breakfast anthem ‘I’m a Serial Cereal Eater’, his musings on the perils of Indian food and the dangers our elderly relatives face in these troubled urban times in ‘How’s Your Nan?’

From the rousing opening of ‘You’re Sinners’, Graham Fellows - aka Jilted John and now John Shuttleworth - triumphantly returned with his sellout performance from November 2010 at the Everyman. In this recent incarnation, he’s very much a man preoccupied with the bigger issues in life. Who can not empathise with the dilemma faced when you’ve reached your pudding but would rather have a little more of that lovely shepherd’s pie, (‘I Can’t Go Back to Savoury Now’)! For me, ‘Two Margarines’ summed up the many domestic issues which wreak havoc in the modern kitchen and John is very much a man grappling with the problems caused by his wife, Mary, and her desire to modernise their lives! And much is made of the demise of the simple bread roll in favour of the more progressive panini, or ’paganini’ as John would have it. Hummus got a bad press as being ’dirty’, alongside the modern youths who hung out on his roof and the stress of bidding on eBay for a toaster, that eventually only cost them 99pence; ‘Toaster Song’.

The perils of modern life weren’t the only ills addressed by John and his Bontempi keyboard, as we were also regaled with stories of Ken, his manager’s (or ’sole agent’s’) failed marriage and inability to spell. It was all Ken’s fault that the title of the show fell foul of a poorly typed email which resulted in ’morals’ becoming ’more rolls’. Talking of morals, during two phone conversations with his wife Mary, we got the distinct impression that Ken was after more than just a cut in John’s fee, as we overheard them trying to unscrew a jar of olives together when Ken should’ve been collecting another of his act’s broad swords from the community centre.

All these slices of suburban life were richly and surreally observed and had the audience in tears of laughter. He even threw in a few cheeky comments about the Everyman being a bit gloomy as it was due to be demolished and advised us to check on our cars during the interval, as we know what reputation Liverpool has! Hats off to Graham Fellows for serving up such a hilarious comic character, from his leather jacket to his Guy Fawkes fancy dress; John Shuttleworth is a man of our times.

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