Back to perform with us is Joe Sellman-Leava, 15:15-16:00 Sunday. If he’s new to you/ you’d like a reminder, read on:
In his own words:
‘This is a story about a boy. And a girl. Some of it’s true. Some of it isn’t. But I’m not going to tell you which is which.’
“Following the success of the multi award-winning Labels (Winner: Scotsman Fringe First), internationally acclaimed Worklight Theatre present a startling new play about the conflicting masculinities we perform. Writer-performer Joe Sellman-Leava blends together vastly different voices (including Mike Tyson, Patrick Stewart and Shakespeare!) into a one-man epic where heroes clash with villains, men become monsters, and truth and fiction collide.
“Joe Sellman-Leava is an actor and writer from Devon, based in London. His plays Labels and Monster have toured the UK and internationally since 2015. He is currently writing a new play, Mosley & Me, about British Fascism, and recently finished touring with Rain Man (Bill Kenwright). Joe is also Worklight Theatre’s artistic director, with whom he has co-written several plays including How to Start a Riot and Fix.”
★★★★ “Brimming with earnest, intelligent energy and jumping between threads seamlessly, deftly reconstructing scenes, arguments and interviews with nothing but a pair of red steel chairs for a set” The Stage
★★★★★ “Beautifully written… a stellar performance” West End Wilma
★★★★★ “a powerful and timely exploration of masculinity in crisis” Theatre Bubble
Setting myself this challenge to write something about each of the artists performing at Glastonbury Poetry&Words from my own perspective has got me questioning a few of my assumptions: 1. That everyone on the stage would be a performance poet/ spoken word artist of some kind. 2. Everyone would have a few videos lying around the internet that I could have a look at – and, more pertinently, listen to – so I could gain a solid impression of them and their work. 3. Okay, audio, then. Soundcloud, Mixcloud, Bandcamp, BBC, podcasts…?
Darn. Well, we live and learn. Or vice versa…
Anyway, most of Joe Sellman-Leava’s videos on YouTube are in relation to his show Labels (well-crafted trailers and crowd-funding updates for the most part), and suddenly all my assumptions fall under the heading: ironically meta. Amused chagrin aside, this is what I’ve learned: JSL has a voice and a directness of presence that had me doing a double-take during the first part of a 20 minute excerpt of Labels when he tells the audience that he’s 25. That seems far too young for the assured performance I’m witnessing (despite the ages of many of the recent Hammer & Tongue finalists, for example, let alone a fair number of our artists this year, it seems that my age is showing… more meta-irony?). It turns out that his voice (in various senses of the word) is also incredibly fluid, switching up accents, tone, and straight-up impersonations with an eerie speed. His main performance is earnest and deceptively straightforward, a well-crafted likeable nervousness slowly revealing well-honed anger, compassion, and determination leading to a meticulous, nuanced interrogation of the underlying factors leading to society’s labelling, compartmentalising, and assumptions, particularly with regard to race. I didn’t finish watching the excerpt of Labels for the slightly complex reason that I was enjoying it far too much and abruptly realised that I didn’t want to find I’d committed to something I was doomed in the ambition to experience in its entirety. As it was, nearly fifteen minutes had passed by and it felt like five at most. He speaks and writes with a regard for the rhythm and texture of language that demonstrates his spoken word influences, which is bound to make this piece of theatre another excellent fit for P&W, and I, for one, am very much looking forward to watching Monster later this month.