John Peel’s Shed @ Underbelly
In 2002, while still a shy teenager, author and broadcaster John Osborne won a pile of records, some of dubious quality, from DJ legend John Peel. It took eight years for him to actually get through them all track by track and this became the catalyst for his semi-autobiographical one-man show.
The crackle of vinyl still has a romantic frisson for those of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s, particularly listeners of the laconic and witty Peel. Osborne sits in a sparse living room set replete with stereo and said records, talking of the sense of family that radio provides and the quirky, often controversial community shows - a welcome escape route from the mind-numbing drudgery of Osborne’s working life.
All of which is commendable, but his focus on the prosaic elements of listeners’ lives mean that this show never really rises above that - ironically he chastises Edith Bowman for doing banal phone-ins on favourite baked potato fillings, yet many of his own anecdotes (romantic disasters, not communicating with work colleagues) however recognisable, are like bland observational comedy.
The title too is something of a misnomer, all too briefly alluding to the late DJ, an uncompromising broadcaster of rare integrity. Osborne is an extremely likeable chap, but he often fails to engage with the audience as a performer and at well over an hour, this doesn’t seem like a fully-realised piece, more like a standard indie anthem written by committee, relying on repetition to wear the listener down. A more succinct timescale would tighten things - there is a reason, as all good girls and boys know, that a three minute punk song is exciting whereas a fifteen minute Genesis track grates…one extra point for Oizone's punk versions of boyband pap pop.