Writer: Joe Sellman-Leava
The multi-award winning fringe sensation Labels is a vibrant, original, and sublimely constructed piece of theatre that effortlessly blends humour with hard-hitting issues. The one man show delves into the passive (and active) prejudices that lurk beneath the surface of modern multi-cultural Britain and the words and phrases used to assign meaning to a given person or object. This weighty subject has formed the focus of numerous pieces of theatre and works of art, however, Labels takes a unique approach that blends real life story telling, humour, historical events, and audience engagement to impressive effect.
The production makes use of the Drum’s uncluttered black box space to create a clear performance area. Props are carefully chosen and minimal in appearance, yet used extensively and to their fullest effect. The literal use of labels greatly helps to reinforce the artificial nature of the names that we use, as well as the impact that those names have on the object and subjects observing it.
Writer and performer Joe Sellman-Leava is charismatic from the off, delivering a masterful montage of satirical impressions before engaging the audience in a slick yet natural discussion of the labels and events that have shaped his life. On the whole, the dialogue feels spontaneous and directed at the audience personally rather than from a predetermined script, and which Sellman-Leava compliments with very well judged direct audience engagement.
This production challenges the audience to consider their own labels, the way in which they act towards others based on those labels, while also maintaining a high level of comedy and entertainment. It is no surprise that Labels has picked up a raft of national and international awards and it is certainly destined to continue growing in strength. With some strong language and hard hitting issues, this show may not be for families or a young audience, however, for everyone else it is well worth a watch.
Runs until 7 May 2016, then touring | Image: Contributed