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Kicked in the Sh*tter review at Hope Theatre, London – ‘well-meaning but artificial’

Kicked in the Sh*tter at Hope Theatre. Photo: Ashley Carter Kicked in the Sh*tter at Hope Theatre. Photo: Ashley Carter
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Following on from their critical success with Sid, author Leon Fleming and director Scott Le Crass turn their attention to the gaping deficiencies in social care. Kicked In The Sh*tter focuses on a brother and sister, as they attempt to negotiate the problems of living with mental illness in a world less and less capable of offering financial or emotional support. The play switches back and forth in time fitfully, suggesting markers in their childhood that lead to the trauma of their adult life.

The boy has an addictive personality, anxiety issues and is bi-polar, while his sister is trying to cope as an un-married mother of two while caring for an invalid parent. The tragedy is compounded when benefits are slashed and the girl turns on her brother. Unable to deal with the reality of his mental health issues as well as her own, she looks for an easy way out.

Stylishly directed by Le Crass, Fleming’s passion for the work is self-evident but there’s something about the language and trajectory that seems well-meaning but artificial. Both characters, particularly the brother, demonstrate a wealth of self-knowledge that seems at odds with their situation.

Despite any misgivings with the material, the performances are nicely judged and both Helen Budge and James Clay work exceptionally hard to establish a genuine bond. Fleming’s work certainly isn’t poverty porn and its themes are depressingly universal, but there is more urban grit in Justin Williams and Jonny Rust’s effective set design than in the writing.

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Verdict
Working class drama that's well structured and intentioned but lacks a convincing voice
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