Brighton Fringe Review: John Peel’s Shed

In 2002 John Osborne won a competition to come up with a strapline for John Peel’s radio show. Two days later he received his prize – a huge box of vinyl records, delivered in person to his student digs in Norwich by some of Peelie’s mates.

Today Osborne is here to tell us the story of that unusual gift, and to take us on a tour through his own lifelong fascination with radio. He steps up to the mic and begins with a brief history of the show itself. The original ‘John Peel’s Shed’ premiered, he explains, at the 2010 Brighton Fringe, upstairs at the Three and Ten. Later it had a successful run in Edinburgh before touring the following year. Now he’s back to perform the show in Brighton once again, this time as the opening monologue in a trio of solo shows, which continue tomorrow and Sunday.

Osborne is a softly spoken narrator, and his voice has a beautiful, lulling Jackanory quality. We feel at home with it straight away. The show consists of three acts, interspersed with brief interludes where Osborne sits down and plays us sections from the original Peel vinyl bequest. Musically this includes work by a punk Boyzone covers band called Oizone, and an intriguingly fantastic-sounding snippet of music by a long-forgotten American musician going under the name Atom And His Package.

The main bulk of the show is a narrated journey through Osborne’s day-to-day life in a series of minimum wage jobs, long days he makes bearable by listening to the radio on headphones. This obsession eventually bears fruit as he broadcasts a series of shows on community radio about his John Peel vinyl stash and, around the same time, makes a decision to listen to a different radio station each day – an experiment which forms the basis of his first book ‘Radio Head’.

The show tonight is a feelgood performance with plenty of laugh aloud moments, reminding us of the power of music and radio to make people feel less alone. In this sense, the show also feels like a precursor to ‘After Hours’, the charming Sky1 sitcom Osborne co-wrote with Molly Naylor, in which a shy teenager starts broadcasting pirate radio from a boat.

Osborne acknowledges during the introduction that ‘John Peel’s Shed’, now eight years old, was put on ice for a long while because the references to serving Radio 1 DJs (Moyles, Bowman and others) quickly became dated. Circa 2018, he reflects, enough time has passed for this show to have more of a retro charm. We think so too, and hope that more people will have the chance to hear this lovely, heart-warming monologue.

The Warren Blockhouse, Friday 1st June 2018

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Peter James Field

Peter did a degree in world art history and anthropology, before spending three years in the Japanese countryside teaching English at village schools. For the past eleven years he has worked as a freelance illustrator.

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