Nothing sexy about despair. Kicked In The Shitter duo slam poverty porn

Their collaboration started with the critically-acclaimed one-man show, Sid, at The Arts Theatre last autumn.

Now writer Leon Fleming and director Scott Le Crass have joined theatrical forces once again, to bring audiences Kicked In The Shitter, a timely two-hander about sibling love and dependency.

West End and fringe theatre playwright Fleming and Le Crass broke off from rehearsals to talk to Stage Review about the production, which opens at The Hope Theatre, Islington next month.

I caught up with the duo to delve deeper into the content of the play, poverty porn, and what audiences can expect.

Kicked In The Shitter is a bittersweet tale of a brother and sister struggling to live with mental health difficulties amid the labyrinthine wreckage of a decayed welfare state.

The 75-minute production sees the siblings revisit childhood squabbles and regale with stories of hope and aspirations that will be universally recognised.

This is the second collaboration between you and Leon, following the critical success of SID at The Arts last year, tell us what makes Leon’s writing so special for you?

Scott Le Crass

Scott: “This is the second collaboration on a full production, but we have a small project and a reading together, which is how we met. Leon writes with sincerity, wit and real humanity which is appealing to me. He writes stories that I want to tell.

Leon, tell us what inspired you to write this play?

Leon: “The honest answer is; I don’t know. I was in-between drafts of my last play, Sid, and I was doing some free-writing so that I’d be in the right frame of mind for working on Sid once Scott came back to me with notes.

“Without really taking much notice of what or who I was writing about; by the end of a week I had about ten scenes revolving around these two characters and their struggles. That was the first draft of Kicked In The Shitter.

“I think I absorb things around me and they get mixed-up with my own personal experiences, so when I write they just come out of me.

“It’s quite rare for me to be consciously inspired and know exactly what I’m writing and why; although Kicked In The Shitter was more sub-conscious than most of my work, and even I was surprised with what I’d come up with”.

You’ve said that this isn’t poverty porn; there’s nothing sexy about despair. What you mean by that?

“In recent years there have been a spate of television reality programmes attempting to pass themselves off as documentaries, which have focused on people struggling to live with a lack of financial means and opportunity.

“I’m talking about programmes like Benefits Street, Benefits Britain and a whole overload of others. This type of programming has been dubbed Poverty Porn.

“Some of the people focused on have even become celebrities, because this type of very cynical programming creates the kind of two-dimensional heroes and villains that we can all watch on telly cheering on or booing at, while doing absolutely nothing positive about the situation being documented.

Leon Fleming

“Having some experience of this kind of existence when I was younger, I was determined that the play I was writing would be about real, three-dimensional, multi-faceted people facing the kind of real problems that so many people face every day, and not just cardboard cut-out characters who are vilified or sexualised by the mainstream media in this country.

“I suppose in Kicked In The Shitter I wanted to try and give some kind of voice to the people I shared a community with when I was dependent on Job Seekers Allowance, Housing Benefit, council​ housing and to the people who are routinely and disgustingly mocked on our television screens”.

What was it about Kicked that drew you to the production?

Scott: “As soon as I read the first draft of the play I was drawn in. It was sharp and funny, yet very
moving and full of pathos.

“The love that the characters have for each was so clear, yet their circumstances have chipped away at their relationships. I felt as if I knew these characters and similar and their situations, so the authenticity in the play also stood”.

Are there autobiographical references in the play?

Leon: “All my plays have autobiographical notes; some more than others.

“Working on this play I’ve been aware that certain aspects of this piece are more auto-biographical than in most of my work, but it wasn’t until a few days ago that I realised just how close to me this play is.

“I think I’d fooled myself into believing that I was talking about people I’ve known, lives I’ve observed; but actually, there’s quite large areas of the story that I’ve lived myself.

“It was a weird moment; I suddenly felt very exposed. It’s funny how many things in our lives we choose to forget; I think it was my way of protecting myself”.

What do you want audiences to take from it?

Leon: “Hope. I want them to be entertained of course, and I want them to enjoy the humour.

“The subject matter isn’t exactly laugh-a-minute, but a lot of the play is pretty funny. Humour is something I think we all use to help us get through the not-so-pleasant times in our lives.

“I want audiences to feel the reality of lives that are perhaps not like their own, to understand what so many people go through every day. I want people to be angry; I want them to feel like something needs to be done and that they want to talk about these issues more and to fight for changes to be made.

“But essentially, I want people to feel that there is hope; that we can be better, and that the lives of so many people can be made better than they are at the moment”.

Scott: “It’s a play a about real life and real people told in a warm, frank and sincere way”.

Kicked In The Shitter is at the Hope Theatre, Islington, from March 21 to April 8.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *