Thank you for choosing me to be a patron of the beautiful Lantern Theatre. It was an honour to be asked, and it is a thrill to be associated once again with the venue upon whose boards I once trod. I was, as I recall, the youngest member of the Dilys Guite Players back in 1975 as a schoolboy of 16. Oops, I've given my age away.
Age is something I've recently thought a lot about as, now in my mid 50s, I have more or less attained the age of my comic alter ego, John Shuttleworth. For years I enjoyed drawing wrinkles on my face, and whitening my temples with stage makeup, but now time has relieved me of the need to do this. As a boy and would-be thespian - before I'd ever appeared at the Lantern - I would sit in front of a mirror at home with a plastic fishing tackle box full of Leichner stage makeup, trying to "age up" into an old man, not knowing I would go on to do it for a living.
I was obsessed with acting as a teenager, performing in all the plays I could whilst a pupil at King Edward Vll School, and when the chance came to appear in Bernard Shaw's 'You Never Can Tell', I jumped on my moped and dashed over to Nether Edge for the audition. Barbara Ellison (please check name) was the director, and, as I recall, she had extreme difficulty getting me to stand still with my arm folded behind my back, as she assured me a young Victorian gentleman would. Another Dilys Guite player back then, Peter Bennett, kindly coached me for my audition for the National Youth Theatre - I didn't get in. But I was accepted by the Manchester Youth Theatre and two Summer seasons there - highlight playing Trinculo in The Tempest - led to a three year drama course at Manchester Polytechnic, and a successful acting career for erm... around 3 years.
Pop music and songwriting had grabbed my attention, and I often found myself honing song lyrics when I should have been learning lines. So it was either fate or a happy accident when I stumbled upon a musical comic character who I named John Shuttleworth and who has served me well for nigh on three decades.
I'm about to embark on my farewell (for the moment) tour, "My Last Will and Tasty Mint", and after that has finished I plan to spend more time on other characters and musical projects. I hope too to be able to come and see a few plays at the Lantern Theatre, as I did recently - Gaslight, which me and my wife and son thoroughly enjoyed. The acting was excellent, the musty damp smell I remember has disappeared, and your new bar area is just brilliant. (We had to make do with a cramped swift half in the back row after shows!)
So well done, and all power to your collective elbow. Dilys Guite is looking down with pride, I'm sure. And although I'm no longer a local boy, dividing my time between Louth in Lincolnshire and the Orkney Isles where I often disappear for inspiration - I will support the theatre and its productions as much as I can.
Thank you for having me, and happy acting!