Reviewer: Matt Forrest
Graham Fellows introduces his latest show that as he puts it is made up of a few songs and several “boring stories”. This rather self-deprecating introduction by Fellows could not be any further from the truth. For this is a man who has had a career most people could only dream of; stage actor, pop star, musician, stand-up comic and star of the small screen – with two different stints in Coronation Street as Gail Platt’s love interest no less.
Armed with a guitar, a Mellotron and a faulty microphone (thankfully fixed for the second half) Fellows takes us on a fascinating journey through not just his career, but his life as well. Like most journeys, this is one filled with highs, but most of all it’s one that more than entertains.
Fellows is arguably best known for his comic character John Shuttleworth, whom seemingly he retired from performing a couple of years back. However, this is not the case at all: Fellows explains he is just giving him a break, whilst occasionally slipping into the Shuttleworth persona, as well as several other his comedic creations including musicologist Brian Appleton and builder Dave Tordoff. However, these are just used sparingly as props. Make no bones about it, this is his show and, as the title says, completely out character.
Throughout the course of the two-hour show, we are treated to anecdotes and songs about his time growing up in Sheffield and his subsequent move to Manchester as a drama student. He had a UK number four single with Jilted John, which provided the first of numerous sing-along moments. There are several stories that included a Top of the Pops appearance, a snog with Debbie Harry, and an inspirational pep talk from Paul McCartney. However,it is not all showbiz and name-dropping as Fellow’s talks about his numerous battles with depression and his decision to give up on comedic aspirations and become a milkman.
Fellows is an earnest and honest performer who should be commended for his frank account of his struggles with mental illness. He is an engaging and entertaining storyteller who has crafted a fun, heart-warming and honest show that really draws you in. The numerous musical interludes are fun throughout, with the occasional song showing Fellows’ fragile side. The stand out track is the Smiths-inspired: My Turn to be poorly which sends up Morrissey an absolute treat. At times, he struggles with some of the vocals but it doesn’t detract from the experience as they are sung with plenty of heart, soul and humour.
As much as this show is about Fellows’ life, it is also a love letter to Manchester: with the city playing as big a part in his story as some of his comic creations. The evening finished perfectly with a closing song, which fully encompassed all the themes in the show with the rather charmingly titled Mark Rylance Was My Lodger. Towards the end of the show, it was announced that John Shuttleworth will be out on tour next year, let us hope that makes a little room for a bit of Graham Fellows too.
Reviewed 25 January 2019