In 2002 John Osborne entered a competition on John Peel’s Radio 1 show. His prize was a box of records from the vast collection Peel kept in his shed. Osborne won and a box of disks was duly delivered from John Peel’s Suffolk home to Osborne’s Norwich flat.
This seemingly innocuous event is the jumping off point for Osborne’s new one man show, John Peel’s Shed, a look at the medium of radio and the impact it has on our lives.
Winning Peel’s eclectic box of records reinvigorated John’s love of music and radio. Stuck in a mind-numbing data entry job, he decided to make the day pass quicker by pledging to listen to a different radio station each day.
Radio seems to have had a deep impact on Osborne’s life, providing an opening for potential romance and providing common ground with colleagues.
Osborne’s genial approach and candid honesty draws the audience in and, although a deeply personal account of life, this openness makes it easy to connect with the tale, regardless of your knowledge of the various radio and music genres being discussed.
The influence of John Peel runs strongly through the piece. Peel’s untimely death obviously deeply impacted Osborne and the tale of how his father stayed up for hours to record the Radio 1 tribute on a series of cassettes for his son is both touching and a demonstration of the DJ’s impact.
The records themselves also play an important role in the production, interspersing dialogue with examples of Peel’s unique musical style. We are treated to tracks from Oizone, a punk Boyzone tribute, Screaming Lord Sutch and Adam and the Atoms (a one man band who retired from the music industry with asthma).
There’s no fancy stagecraft here, no big message, no real revelation but John Osborne’s charismatic delivery and obvious passion for the medium turn this into a gripping love declaration to radio.