In the FINAL week of the 2017 VAULT Festival, we caught three one man shows, all of which coincidentally revolved around men with, well, issues (but then again who doesn’t?) – a gambling addict who loses his job in All of Me, a man who struggles to form a human relationship in Maisie Says She Loves Me, and a man who grew up with racism around him, but still turned out pretty great in Labels.
All of Me by Anything Other Theatre Company
All of Me is the debut play by Anything Other, and is an unexpectedly short piece that deals with holes in people’s lives. Specifically, it’s a big hole in ex-travel agent Gareth (Jack Wilkinson), who loses his job over accessing gambling websites while at work. Gareth lives in the wake of his father’s death, leaving behind some inheritance money for the family. Inspired by his father, who taught him everything he knows about gambling and acted as a hero figure while he was alive, Gareth uses the money to bet and win his way to a living, assuring himself and the audience that he’s always in control, with the risk kept to a bare minimum, a coping mechanism for dealing with his father’s passing.
As we all know with gambling, once the streak comes, it doesn’t stop until you’ve lost it all. Gareth goes at it for hours at a time, be it online or the now familiar figures of the bookies at the local betting shops, carefully avoiding running into his mother in the mornings. It’s not that he’s terrible at his previous job; he was great at it, knowing just how to work the customer, and answering to his boss’ beck and call, even scoring employee of the month. Gambling for Gareth, seems to be a way to fill a void in his life, made only worse after he’s fired with nothing to do as the days pass, a lonely existence with approximately 0 friends.
Maisie Says She Loves Me by Aula & Osborne Theatre
Maisie Says She Loves Me is a surprisingly sobering, realistic look at one man’s attempt to be normal and happy despite a difficult childhood, and how being in a serious relationship can bring out the very best and worst in people. David Aula’s performance nimbly navigates the complexities of Sheldon’s character, and easily endears him to us while creating a deep sense of sympathy for him, a wish that things might have turned out better, and to eventually find someone to share his life with. Come to this performance, get in touch with your emotions, and sit closer to the front; who knows, you might even score a free drink!
Labels by Worklight Theatre
If you’ve ever been a minority, then Labels will speak volumes to you. Joe Sellman-Leava takes his award-winning show to the VAULT Festival and it’s easy to see why it’s such a success.
Growing up as the child of an Ugandan Indian father and a British mother in a small village in Devon, Joe used to be stumped by the question “Where are you from from?” In his show, Joe recounts his life being judged based on the colour of his skin, along with anecdotes from his family and living in the UK. The stories range from funny – his mother’s story about his brother Ross’ name origin, to the painfully realistic – being responded to in a mock Indian accent, a victim of racist comments on a Tinder conversation. Along the way, Joe also shows off his great character work when he impersonates and quotes various political figures who’ve spoken out against migrants and refugees, from journalist Katie Hopkins’ derogatory article in The Sun to Nigel Farage’s disparaging remarks, to even President Donald Trump, for obvious reasons.
Labels is very much a personal show, and can’t possibly be told by any other person apart from Joe. But thankfully, Joe is an amazing storyteller, and has plenty of great stories to tell. When recounting his family’s origins, he dons a patchwork blazer, telling an almost fairytale like account of his father’s move to England, and the refugees that followed not long after under Idi Amin’s racist policies. He recounts historian David Starkey’s outrageous claim that ‘the whites have become black’ in the wake of the UK riots in 2011. Amidst the political and global, he brings it down to very personal, relatable levels as well, unafraid to bare his soul and questioning from his heart the point when children change their words from play to attacks when a ten year old boy insults him on the street, and recalls neighbors wondering what his mother eats, being married to an Indian and having a dislike of curry.
Labels plays at the Cage (The Vaults) till 5 March. Tickets available here. You can keep up with Worklight Theatre on their website and follow them on Twitter @worklight_uk and @JoeSellmanLeava. Labels will also go on tour in the UK following the VAULT Festival, dates available here
Note: Labels was previously reviewed by us by a different reviewer here for the 2017 M1 Singapore Fringe Festival.
Stay tuned for part 2 and our FINAL coverage for the 2017 VAULT Festival coming out tomorrow, and remember to catch all these shows and more till Sunday, 5 March!