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The Shed Crew review at Albion Electronics Warehouse, Leeds – ‘striking and powerful’

Scene from The Shed Crew at Albion Electronics Warehouse, Leeds. Photo: Anthony Robling Scene from The Shed Crew at Albion Electronics Warehouse, Leeds. Photo: Anthony Robling
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Leeds theatre company Red Ladder’s latest show, The Shed Crew, is based on the 1990s memoir Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew by Bernard Hare. On the page, it tells the story of how Hare, unemployed and and a heavy drug user, tried at the same time to provide shelter and even education for the “feral children” in his area. It is, by all accounts, a brilliant book, made all the more poignant for the death earlier this year of its then 12-year-old central character.

Kevin Fegan’s adaptation for the stage is much more of a mixed bag. For a start, he has written it in verse, much of it rhyming. Looked at in the kindest possible light, the net result is like John Cooper Clarke trying to explain the plot of The Brothers Karamazov. In an hour. In verse. That’s a hell of a task, and not one to which the script is always equal.

Rod Dixon’s staging – staged mostly in-the-round in the middle of an electronics warehouse – is nicely done, if slightly marred by the attitude-striking that is adopted for the delivery of particularly difficult couplets. And, with most members of the cast playing multiple roles in rapid-fire snapshot scenes, it is frequently impossible to keep up with what’s happening to whom.

Nonetheless, for all these solecisms, the heart of the story – the compassion for its characters, for their impossibly difficult lives, and the anger at the sheer viciousness of successive governments effectively orchestrating this deprivation – is striking and powerful.

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Red Ladder presents a rough-around-the-edges adaption of Bernard Hare's Leeds memoir