4/5 Stars

★★★★ A Challenging and Authentic Take on Socio-economic Struggles

Abigail Bryant reviews Kicked in the Shi*tter at the Hope Theatre, Islington

Leon Fleming’s new and provocatively titled play Kicked in the Sh*tter (directed by Scott Le Crass) confronts the bleaker side of Britain’s class structure and welfare state, whilst simultaneously exploring the complexity of invisible illness. A narrative of sibling love, turmoil and dependency, the aptly un-named duo of characters transport us through their navigation of an uncooperative system that lays on the line their basic human needs.

The audience at the Hope Theatre are transported to a Birmingham council estate, where ‘Him’ and ‘Her’ move to and from their youth and adult years, through various scenes of light-hearted banter to more disturbing moments of dramatic climax and emotional turbulence. The set is minimal, with stark stone blocks serving as the foundations for each scene, and a bottle of Lambrini to signify the duo’s younger and splendidly naïve selves.

Despite a tone of seeming hopelessness, Kicked in the Sh*tter maintains a sense of warmth and sincerity throughout, with a convincing brother sister relationship that feels genuine and authentic. The play, while challenging and fraught, asks significant questions about poverty in contemporary Britain, and challenges the culturally stereotypical perspective of benefits seekers. It is ultimately a human story within an inhumane system, and Helen Budge and James Clay are not only compelling to watch, they exhibit enormous chemistry with each other, but demonstrate equally powerful performances individually. James Clay in particular portrays mental illness with conviction and authenticity.

At only an hour in length, Kicked in the Sh*tter provides quality over quantity with a slick pace and fluid transitions, although at times signposting could be made clearer to ensure each scene fulfils it’s potential impact. Packed full of drama, insight and quality acting, it’s not easy to digest, but important all the same.

Abigail Bryant

Kicked in the Sh*tter plays at the Hope Theatre until April 8th, 2017.

Other reviews for the Hope Theatre include The We Plays

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