THIS month, Helmsley Arts Centre offers two quirky and poignant stage shows that have been big hits on Edinburgh’s Festival Fringe, writes Martin Vander Weyer.

On Friday, May 17 at 7.30pm, we’re presenting a double bill of storytelling by theatre-maker and writer John Osborne: John Peel’s Shed and Circled in the Radio Times. The first of these is Osborne’s charming riff about a box of records that once belonged to legendary Radio 1 presenter John Peel — who was famed for giving air-time to obscure progressive rock bands and singer-songwriters, many of whom never made it to further fame.

Osborne recalls how the jumble of records, their cover art, the oddities of their bands’ names and the youthfulness of the musician’s fading photographs became a source of fascination to him even before he owned a record-player — his parents finally bought him one, as a 21st birthday present, from an advert on the back of the Radio Times. Eventually he tracked down some of the recording artists who had long ago moved on into ordinary life: ‘The bass player of this one’s a heating engineer in Leeds,’ he observes of one forgotten group.

John Peel’s Shed sold out at the 2011 Edinburgh fringe and went on to a 60-date UK tour, including appearances at Soho Theatre, Sheffield Crucible and Glastonbury; it was also adapted for BBC Radio 4. Alongside, Osborne performs Circled in the Radio Times, which tells the story of another box of memories — this time, old copies of the Radio Times that belonged to his granddad, whose life Osborne pieces together from the shows that he had circled. Critics give his gentle comic narratives high praise: ‘One of the loveliest things you’ll see all year,’ was The Herald’s verdict on the Peel show.

Next comes Team Viking by James Rowland, directed by Daniel Goldman and presented by Tangram Theatre — on Friday, May 24 at 7.30pm. Five years ago, James Rowland’s best friend was diagnosed with heart cancer: told he had three months to live, he declared that his last wish was to be given a full Viking burial. This is the remarkable and heart-lifting story of how James gave his best mate the send-off he wanted. Combining storytelling and live music, Team Viking was a breakthrough hit at the Edinburgh Fringe. Sad, lyrical and funny, it’s an ode to friendship featuring an actual Viking helmet, and it has inspired audiences in touring venues across the UK.

Tickets are available from the Box Office 01439 771700 or at