KICKED IN THE SH*TTER at The Hope Theatre



“A painfully realistic portrayal of the harshness of real life endured by so many”


The working partnership of writer Leon Fleming and director Scott le Crass return with this bleak two-hander focusing on often ignored, mental health and modern day socio-economic issues.

Set in and around a Birmingham tower block, it’s a gritty real life tale of the hardships facing ‘Him’ (James Clay) and ‘Her’ (Helen Budge) – a close brother and sister both battling against illness, living on the breadline and a seemingly uncaring system.

The story flits between the childhood of the siblings, the sneaky Lambrini swigging sessions (hastily disguised with a Polo mint) discussing their hopes and dreams for later life, to present day – ‘Her’ now an unemployed mother of two young children struggling to cope and ‘Him’ also jobless and battling with mental health issues and the stigma that comes with them. Their mother, with her own complex issues adding to the ever increasing burden on the pair.

James Clay and Helen Budge are very believable siblings; slightly bossy older sister, insecure younger brother, relentless Mickey taking of one another, petty rivalries, but always a deep and caring, ever conquering love for one another.

Clay’s mannerisms and acting throughout are signs of an excellently researched piece. The constant awkwardness of his hands, wringing and grasping; his ever present knack of finding humour in adversity masking his inner sadness; the pained facial expressions, all very realistic traits of a young life being lost to the demons of anxiety and depression.

Budge as a mouthy mother and outspoken sister is equally charming. You really start to feel for her, struggling to cope and to make ends meet. We share her happiness and laughter and feel her pain as it finally all gets too much for her.

A stark set (Justin Williams and Jonny Rust) comprising of drab concrete paving and four featureless cubes made to resemble concrete blocks worked perfectly. Simply rearranged to create everything from a soulless jobcentre to a hospital bed or even a loving home – their simplicity belies their adaptability. Symbolic to the harshness of life, yet also with a hidden beauty.

Kicked in the Sh*tter makes you really think about people. Real people. The situations portrayed in Fleming’s plot are fact for millions around the country yet all too often the only air time they ever get portrays them all as spongers and layabouts. Our brother and sister are neither, they are where they are because of the hand life has dealt them – desperate for help, but faced with a black and white social security system that judges and rarely sees shades of grey.

It’s a painfully realistic portrayal of the harshness of real life endured by so many and thus deserves a larger audience; a perfect piece to be adapted for a television drama.

A disappointing turn out to the show I saw, perhaps the combined pairing of mental health and social economics a bit ‘too much’ for some, or they have preconceived ideas jaded by frivolous Channel 5 documentaries. I would implore you to go and see this show with an open mind. You will see things in a light you wouldn’t expect. You will be moved and touched.


Kicked in the Sh*tter

is playing at the Hope Theatre until 8th April.




Please click here to find thespyinthestalls on Twitter. Follow us to keep up to date with this show and others like it. Thank you for your support.


Click here to see our Recommended Shows page