Labels is a solo show written and performed by Joe Sellman-Leava. It was the last show I saw last year at Edinburgh Fringe and one that has left the longest imprint.
The play is an exploration of our obsession with labels. From the smallest of objects, to the most abstract concepts, Sellman explores society’s use of labels and their divisive nature. Asking whether labeling something as dangerous makes us – the Western society - more prepared for ‘it’.
Speaking poignantly from personal experience as a mixed race man, Sellman touches on the difficulty of not fitting into one label. Experienced most prominently at university and on Tinder, where he suffered excessive questioning, categorization and racism.
The refrain “Half Indian, half British” is repeated throughout the performance as he speaks candidly of his father’s struggle adapting to British culture. He recalls his father’s decision to change his name and accent during the sixties, in order to improve his employability, in the face of a xenophobic Britain.
Although Labels touches on hard-hitting topics, including Enoch Powell and the migration crisis, Sellman maintains a charismatic energy that pokes and questions such ignorance, leaving the audience enthralled, rather than detached from the severity of the subject matter.
Simplistically done, Sellman completely takes reign of the small stage, wearing a plain black shirt and holding a suitcase, both of which become gradually smothered in labels.
Perhaps having foreseen Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump, Labels, returns again to Edinburgh Fringe and is perhaps the most relevant and timely of plays this year.
To see the effects of such powerful theatre on other members of the audience, click on the link below:
The play is being performed once again at this year's Fringe - see below for ticket information: