Worklight Theatre’s award-winning show Labels is heading on tour following its critically acclaimed, sold out run at Edinburgh Fringe 2016. Labels draws on writer and performer Joe Sellman-Leava’s experiences of being mixed heritage to explore broader issues of racism, immigration and displacement and examining how we use words, the line between curiosity and fear, and the rise of anti-immigration rhetoric.
Despite being born in Gloucestershire, Sellman-Leava grew up constantly being asked where he was really from. Cheltenham! Here, he calls for a fairer, more open-minded society, using his own stories to open a wider discussion about the way we talk about, think about and treat our fellow human beings.
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? (The Scotsman)
Sellman-Leava says: We've now had the pleasure of performing Labels 170 times since we started touring in 2015. Each time, without fail, people are eager to talk afterwards about their own experiences of labelling and prejudice. Audiences have commented more and more on the increasing relevance of the show - Britain voting to leave the EU, a dramatic increase in hate crimes and the rise of anti-immigration politics across the world. Worklight are determined to keep telling this story in as many places as possible.
Labels was inspired by a racism and equality workshop, led by Oscar-winning writer, actor and activist Emma Thompson, at Exeter University in 2009. It premiered in the wake of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Europe and fierce debates around migration and refugees. On reading the script, Thompson, who has spoken out against the UK’s response to the crisis, said, What a terrific piece. I love it. Simple, powerful, important and funny.
Labels won the Best Theatre at the Adelaide Fringe 2016 and the Scotsman Fringe First Award at Edinburgh Fringe 2015. It was also shortlisted for the Amnesty International’s Freedom of Expression Award.