Kicked in the Sh*tter – The Hope Theatre
BY ELVAN FAIK
For a play about unemployment, poverty, mental health and the inadequacy of the benefits system and the NHS, Kicked in the Sh*tter strikes at a surprisingly hopeful note at the Hope Theatre.
At the heart of the play is the relationship between a brother and sister who we see at different points in their lives, first as squabbling teenagers, later as adults struggling to cope in a society which seems increasingly difficult for the most vulnerable. Helen Budge plays a convincing older sister, sneaking out to drink and meet boys as a teenager while trying to make ends meet while caring for their mother, bringing up her children and struggling to make ends meet as an adult. However, the key relationship in her life, and the only other character we meet in the play, is her younger brother (played by James Clay) who is both innocent and vulnerable – seemingly reliant on his tough older sister and unable to cope with some of the (significant) challenges life throws at him. Their relationship is portrayed strongly by the two leads and they clearly demonstrate the importance of the uneven bond the siblings have with each other.
The play clearly exposes the many failings of the benefits system and the NHS, which are both unable and unwilling to cope with the problems the siblings face – the DWP and the health service are portrayed by mere voices, lacking the humanity of a human face or touch. These well staged scenes make it very clear that the siblings are left on their own, even when the voice of the benefits clerk expresses sympathy and apologises that he cannot do more to help them, the stark reality remains that these characters are alone, with only each other for support.
However, the play suggests that in the end this relationship might be enough, as the siblings’ roles are reversed and both characters find reserves of strength and bravery they did not know they had. And while the play never flinches from exposing the unfairness of the systems that often hurt the vulnerable people they are designed to protect, the core message of this play is about the value and power of the human relationships which sustain us all.
While Kicked in the Sh*tter doesn’t romanticise the problems of isolation, poverty and mental health it offers us a hopeful reminder of the strength of the human spirit and the importance of our shared humanity.
writer : LEON FLEMING / director : SCOTT LE CRASS
21 Mar – 8 Apr 2017
Tues to Sat. No shows Sun & Mon