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The Shed Crew - Albion Electric Warehouse
Phil Hopkins, Theatre & Travel Correspondent
The cast of The Shed Crew - photo by Anthony Robling
It is not often that a theatre company advises you to bring a cushion with the added advice to wear old jeans and a thick coat.

But, then again, it is not every day that the proscenium arch of Leeds Grand Theatre is replaced by the Albion Electric Warehouse just down the road from Cross Green and East End Park, two of the city's more socially deprived areas.

But what an inspired choice by Red Ladder, the near 50-year-old theatre company devoted to productions that contribute to social change and global justice. Bernard Hare's Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew was the inspiration for their latest offering, The Shed Crew.

As for the setting? Perfect, if a little challenging on the buttocks and smart chinos!

I remember reading Hare's book some years ago and it struck a real chord with a man who was born in Beeston but who spent many hours in the shadow of East End Park. In a slight change of circumstances, I could so easily have followed a similar life to those real-life characters profiled in the book.

So, when Kevin Fegan penned his stage version of Hare's work, and Red Ladder took up the challenge to deliver something worthy, it seemed a good reason for a night out with a difference.

The setting was bleak - an old, dusty abandoned warehouse close to South Accommodation Road - but true to the novel itself, which tells the brutal story of Urban and his feral mates, abandoned by society at every level and forced to fend for themselves in the suburbs of East End Park.

photo by Anthony Robling
Adam Foster was great as the young protagonist, deeply suspicious of the token adult and disillusioned social worker who strays into their lives and 'Ashtrayland', Chop played with total conviction by Jamie Smelt.

Also by Phil Hopkins...
Irreverant Mash Up - Fastasticus
Grease - Not Quite as Slick
MacMillan Tribute - A Stark Reminder
Society's Dangerous Obsession? - Ibsen
The Band - A Jukebox Musical In Denial!
They were both credible with great Leeds accents and, as I have said a million times before, there is no substitute for an amazing story, and the abandoned kids, below-age pregnancies, drugs and violence visualised in The Shed Crew, are all the more shocking when you realise that they really happened.

This show, with its minimal audience, will be seen by fewer than it should be. Some will dismiss it as Left-Wing propaganda but, as a lad who spent a lot of time in Seacroft, before building a business and joining the capitalist ranks, The Shed Crew is needed.

Director Rod Dixon wants to make a point and he does so with great style and innovation. The audience were part of the action, voyeurs almost of a despairing world, but Hare did the best thing for his hopeless charges when he put pen to paper. Red Ladder have taken it to the next stage by reminding a sleeping world that social deprivation is still on our doorstep and that we have a duty to open our blind eye.

Until Sunday October 1st
Venue: Albion Electric Warehouse, Leeds LS10 1PR

The Shed Crew - Albion Electric Warehouse, 28th September 2017, 15:29 PM