Labels (4 stars)

This article is from 2015


Joe Sellman-Leava offers a personal and intimate examination of modern-day racism

'Where are you from?’ a housemate asked Joe Sellman-Leava when he arrived at university. The answer of Devon but originally Cheltenham did not prove good enough as he was asked again: 'but where are you from from? Where are your parents from?'

Inspired by his mixed-race heritage, Sellman-Leava recounts personal experiences of prejudice, from a girl on Tinder who said she didn't want 'an Indian' to a couple of Jack Wills-clad rugby boys who put on an Indian accent to speak to him. With just the right amount of humour, Sellman-Leava never allows the show to become self-pitying without diminishing the impact of this casual racism.

Racism continues to prevail, not just among the uneducated, but in the so-called intelligent members of society, and Sellman-Leava repeatedly quotes prejudiced comments from the likes of Katie Hopkins, Nigel Farage and David Cameron to highlight this.

Sellman-Leava's mother, father, brother and sister feature prominently in the script. In one of the most impressive and harrowing parts of the piece, Sellman-Leava takes on the character of his father, reciting an angry and frustrated poem about the racism he experienced when he arrived in England, revealing that his mum was labelled a 'traitor' for dating an Indian.

I happened to attend Labels on a very special day. Sellman-Leava’s brother joined him on stage at the end of the performance to propose to his girlfriend, leaving every audience member with a smile on their face as they walked out. This may be a show dealing with racism, immigration and labels, but at its heart it is an inspiring story of the strength of a family from Devon who have managed to overcome obstacles of prejudice.

Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, until 31 Aug, 12.35pm, £7–£9 (£6–£8).


Multi-award winning show about mixed heritage and immigration.