Premiering on home ground, Red Ladder’s innovative new show, Shed Crew, hijacks a Leeds’ warehouse where LEO OWEN caught the show

A cross between Good Will Hunting and a more realistic hard-hitting Shameless but set in 1990s’ Leeds, Red Ladder Theatre’s Shed Crew adapts Bernard Hare’s critically acclaimed memoir Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew.

Set in the East of Leeds, Hare’s book reflects on and documents his complex relationship with a group of largely ignored and disaffected teens and pre-teens, struggling to survive a life of poverty, neglect and deprivation. Disillusioned himself with the political climate and government, Hare rejects his social worker training and traditional employment to unwittingly become a drug addict and part-time mentor and guide, forming a special bond with one of the six children of an ex-lover. It is this kinship that forms the heart of the story and originally inspired Hare to document his experiences.

Playwright Kevin Fegan’s adaptation pays homage to source material and faithfully portrays Hare’s complex relationship with the boy he eventually fostered and the lost children he nurtured. Fegan uses verse to replicate the language of the streets and highlight close-knit gang culture whereby stray, vulnerable and largely abused children create their own surrogate families.

Rod Dixon’s direction and Ali Allen’s set design perfectly complement the raw energy of the story’s central and peripheral characters while remaining true to the play’s geographical, social and cultural setting. Using an East Leeds’ location is ingenious and the warehouse setting cleverly emulates the destitution and rough living conditions of the characters. Equally, the warehouse also provides space for Dixon’s production to be truly immersive, allowing cast to mingle with the audience and us to literally journey through key locations, virtually experiencing an impoverished "up-bringing".

Dixon’s cast play larger-than-life but wholly believable characters, tragic fighters both likable and shocking. As the story’s central duo, Jamie Smelt and Adam Foster gel, touchingly drawing the story to its beautiful heart-breaking final scene. The rest are just as convincing, fizzing with adolescent electric energy. Much like teen hormones, it swings between highs and lows, leaving you wanting but somehow still managing to energise and uplift, exuding youthful energy and a cheeky rebellion.

The Shed Crew shows September 21-October 1 2017: