Train timetables are mundane statements of facts; stations, times, not much else. Yet one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, Marcel Proust, was fascinated by them. He entertained himself by writing stories and inventing worlds from such banal material. Clearly, creative minds don’t need much to kick-start their neurons and start spiraling off on innumerable threads of thought. Sh!t Theatre at Manchester Home are of such stock. People’s junk mail are their train timetables. Before you know it they’ve got your attention in a vice, and you’re spiraling off with them, tangled in their web of song about Rob Jeacock, a suspected adult baby with a mail order milk subscription. Really? Yes!

It starts at Windsor House. Not the home of the Queen, we are told, but the residence of Sh!t Theatre, in North London. Rebecca Biscuit and Lousie Mothersole are on stage, in front of a projector screen, showing us images and videos of their flat and surrounding area. They each pay £467 per month, for a small space in an area so bleak, Stephen Spielberg filmed it as a setting for Schindler’s List. Here, they continue to demonstrate how satire can’t compete with their reality. The rest of the dreary blocks that surround them are incredulously named after royal palaces; Buckingham, Balmoral and Holyrood. The pub full of down-on-life men is called the Happy Man pub. The local chip shop is called #Hashtag Fish and Chips. It’s all real.

As time passed at Windsor House, they were increasingly inundated with other people’s mail. Rather than redirect or discard, they decided to open and investigate, decisively legitimised by the ambiguous and sexist Postal Services Act of 2000. Opening another’s mail is only illegal if he intends to act to another’s detriment and without reasonable excuse. It is from here that we are thrown into an investigatory pinball machine of Sh!t Theatre’s making, and ricocheted back and forth between the stories of Windsor House’s previous tenants. Enter Rob Jeacock. The one with the baby milk subscription, and reams of breast cancer leaflets. The dots fail to connect. A detective trail ensues, with a sense of adventure and song mixed in. Revelations unfold with both silliness and seriousness.

Delivered with humour, Sh!t Theatre give us their reality, so absurd, it’s hilarious. The absurdity however, is grounded in the reality of the dire living situation the characters find themselves in, a real comment on the UK’s worsening house crisis. The play takes a fresh approach to a subject becoming more and more popular with today’s playwrights and theatre makers. Letters to Windsor House is in sharp contrast to Ali Taylor’s Cathy (2017, Royal Exchange), an adaptation of Ken Loach’s Cathy Come Home (1966), which used the story of a holier-than-thou protagonist to create schmaltzy sympathy. Sh!t Theatre give us a greater depth of character. We see all the varied responses they have to their situation, including footage of them cheekily countering the Romanian hip hop they endure nightly from their neighbours, with a dodgy trombone rendition of Rule Britannia. They are unashamedly themselves, and all the more engaging for it.

Interspersed throughout the jovial investigations and provocations are heartfelt, confessional moments between Becca and Louise. During which, they turn themselves into cardboard post boxes and give us their poignant interpersonal story of two friends, struggling to live with each other, yet not quite content with the thought of living without one another. Living in a confined space with strangers is difficult, it can be even more difficult with those closest to you. By giving us insight into such a relationship, they add a touching emotional layer to the play.

The likes of Sh!t Theatre are continually reinventing theatre, testing different formula and presenting new ways of meaningfully telling stories. Housing in London is a nightmare, absurd and unjust. By representing it through absurdity in equal measure, Becca and Louise get to the heart of it all.