COMEDY John Shuttleworth Dominion Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture
John Shuttleworth has been likened to another nerdy John with thick spectacles and poor taste in clothes: our Prime Minister. Both certainly hail from a background peopled with garden gnomes and are more than likely to tuck their shirt-tails into their underpants.

The difference is that Shuttleworth is a fictional creation, the product of the same inspired imagination that gave birth to the one-hit wonder Jilted John in 1978. To a greater extent than many other characters doing the rounds on the circuit at the moment, the no-hope entertainer Shuttleworth is a fully-formed person with a hinterland. After more than 10 years' fermentation, he is now a mature brew.

Stanislavsky would be proud of the background creator Graham Fellows has sketched in for his character. Shuttleworth, an often tongue-tied former security guard at a sweet-factory, is married to Mary, a dinner- lady who can't be with him at the theatre because she's at step class in Sheffield. They like to "go to the reservoir to check the level ... Then we might go and get a key cut. You can do that as a couple. While you're waiting, you can go and check out hold-all prices."

Enamoured of his Y-Reg Austin Ambassador - to which his new single is dedicated - Shuttleworth is in a trend timewarp. Fashion didn't just cross the street to avoid him; it never even visited his town.

Resplendent in brown leather car-coat with non-matching lurid red polo- neck and beige slacks, he is wary of the 1980s and downright suspicious of the 1990s. "I used to be very mistrustful of shower gel," he confides. Later on, he reveals that "I'm starting to get it, alternative comedy. Hale and Pace - brilliant, aren't they?"

The Bloomsbury Theatre in central London is a bit of a departure for the showbiz-challenged Shuttleworth. He usually sets up his gloriously tacky Yamaha organ and starts to bang out his tuneless delights in more down-to-earth venues such as "hospices, sheltered accommodation, drop- centres and libraries - not the main section, the reference section, but only if the projector has been put away."

Like Victoria Wood, he locates his persona through very specific references. The act is peppered with character-defining name-checks: Space Hopper, TV Quick, Kwik-Fit, Tracker Bar, the Icicle Works, Rhyl, Cheryl Baker. The charming aspect of Fellows's depiction is his obvious affection for the character; he is smiling rather than sneering.

If there is a reservation, it is that such an accurate portrayal of a non-entity may be hard to sustain over, say, a six-part television series. Just how many ironically naff songs about pigeons in flight can we take?

But for the time being, we should simply celebrate the greatest mediocrity to rise to public prominence since a certain trapeze-artist's son from Brixton. Oh yes.

To Sat. Booking: 0171-388 8822