Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: Labels, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Sally Stott.
“Where are you from? No, where are you actually from?” It’s a question that Joe Sellman-Leava has been asked throughout his life, and the answer is Cheltenham.
However, what the people behind it often really want to know is why he isn’t as white as they are. Despite growing up in Britain in the 1990s, the era of “political correctness gone mad”, Joe has found himself labelled – but then he, like all of us, has done his share of labelling, too.
Three years after their imaginative attempt to pinpoint the cause of the 2011 London riots (How to Start a Riot), Worklight Theatre are back with a piece replacing some of the homespun charm of the debut with something more polished, personal and provocative.
Here everything has a label: “black”, “white”, “friend”, “enemy”, “Katie Hopkins”, “the fridge”. As Joe puts white stickers containing such words on himself and us, he explores our need to put people in boxes. Is it simply to create order from chaos? Or to feel superior?
At its core, it’s a piece about immigration and how labels allow us to see some people as less deserving than others to a point where we’d rather let them drown then let them into our countries.
With the growth of Ukip in the UK and far-right parties in Europe, it’s a pertinent attempt to understand what’s currently happening. However, it’s also an autobiographical show, in which Joe gives an amusing insight into his own childhood, growing up as someone with dual heritage in a middle-class family in southern England.
The show doesn’t offer any real solutions to the complex issues surrounding immigration which, as he points out, are “a minefield”. But his call to create a fairer, more tolerant society seems like a good place to start.
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) until 31 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 17 August 2015
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