The Shed Crew - Red Ladder & WYP
A stage play in verse by Kevin Fegan; adapted from the book URBAN GRIMSHAW AND THE SHED CREW by Bernard Hare
21 September – 1 October: Albion Electric warehouse, Leeds: Press night: Friday 22 September, 8pm.
‘We were totally off the lead, we took care of our own needs and we grew like rampant weeds in the financial flower-bed of the North. Yes, we were Thatcher’s illegitimate bastards but we didn’t need saving, we were children of the rave scene and we knew how to party in the graveyard of Leeds.’
Take a trip back to the techno-thumping 1990s and join THE SHED CREW in Ashtrayland, home of the damned, in an immersive large-scale performance unfolding all around in the vast Albion Electric warehouse. Author Bernard Hare’s ground-breaking 2005 book Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew is adapted for the stage for the first time by playwright Kevin Fegan, as Red Ladder Theatre Company presents this darkly funny memoir about former social worker ‘Chop’ and his remarkable bond with The Shed Crew.
When Chop meets charismatic Urban – an illiterate 12-year-old but with a real talent for words, and a penchant for glue-sniffing and firebombing - he’s brought into the inner-circle of The Shed Crew: a posse of dispossessed kids: runaways and joyriders, seeking sanctuary in a shed from the mean streets of their inner-city estate. When mum’s a junkie, your dad might as well be dead and grown-ups are all nonces, grasses and greedy-bastards, The Crew is the only family you need.
Award-winning playwright Kevin Fegan (OBAMA THE MAMBA/SLAVE) has adapted Hare’s searingly honest memoir into an ingenious new play which captures the explosive energy of this extraordinary story.
He says, “Chop and Urban’s relationship is like a buddy movie: a strange pairing of a middle-aged man and a 12-year-old boy who go on a wild trip, with the Shed Crew as its chorus. Their story explodes like a firework, and I needed to capture the energy of these feral kids. It’s the warts and all honesty that I most admire, and the humanity that you warm to - Bernard Hare tells the good and the bad in his book because that’s the truth; he includes himself in that. It’s not about how we can go marching in and help – it’s what we can take from these kids and their experiences. There’s a lot in The Shed Crew for the rest of us to learn.”
THE SHED CREW is directed by artistic director Rod Dixon and performed by a company of eight northern actors: Jamie Smelt (Chop); Adam Foster (Urban); James Lewis (Sparky/Frank); Lladel Bryant (Skeeter/Sam/Shed Crew); Shireen Farkhoy (Thieving Little Simpkins/Pixie/ Teezer), Tanya Vital(Pinky/Greta), Leanne Rowley (Molly/Stella/Kara/Natasha); Liz Simmons (Trudi).
Author Bernard Hare is the son of a mining family, and returned to his home estate in Leeds in the 1990s after becoming disillusioned working as a social worker in London. It’s here that he met ‘Urban’ and was introduced to The Shed Crew - a group of dispossessed children who had fallen through the cracks, let down by the system. Often colluding in their wildness - but the only grown-up that they trust – ‘Chop’ became their unlikely mentor, introducing these kids to the arts, and learning far more from them in return. Hare wrote Urban Grimshaw and The Shed Crew after Fergal Keane shot a notorious BBC documentary in the area; inspiring him to write his memoir to show the reality of life for people that had been socially excluded, and giving a voice to the voiceless.
Twenty years on from the events of the book, Red Ladder Theatre Company is presenting the world premiere staging of this acclaimed work of literature. It is working with Leeds Poverty Truth Commission and partnering Simon on the Streets to work with communities and start a conversation about extreme poverty. An artistic outreach programme is taking place and Red Ladder is making THE SHED CREW as accessible as possible, tailoring some performance times around the specific needs of community groups.
Rod Dixon says, “There have been massive leaps forward and huge changes since Bernard Hare’s book was written, and we’re not looking back to the past in bringing this incredible artwork to the stage. As one of Britain’s leading radical theatre companies this story is one that Red Ladder still needs to tell - as vast sections of society across Britain exist in extreme poverty; forgotten communities living parallel lives in austerity against the glossy veneer of commerce and consumerism. We’re thrilled to have the Albion Electrics warehouse as a venue in which we will immerse people into this world; one from which we can all learn about ‘survival’ and family and the power of humanity and the arts.”