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Arts of the UK 2020: Joe Sellman-Leava brings Monster and Labels to Bristol’s Wardrobe Theatre (Preview)

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LONDON – Winner of more than five international awards, including a Fringe First, Joe Sellman-Leava comes to Bristol in early 2020 with two one-man productions putting the theatremaker’s skills on full display.

Directed by Yaz Al-Shaater (Dead Reckoning, Young Vic; Boris World King, Trafalgar Studios), Monster explores ideas of aggression within relationships, while scrutinising the place of the male role model in society. Experimenting with form, it considers the viewpoints on conflicting performative masculinities, including those of famous figures like Mike Tyson and Patrick Stewart, using a play within a play, overlapping voices and multi-roling. This relevant production seeks to remove violence from an imagined, far-off place and instead grounds it as an aspect of many people’s everyday lives. It is a dark yet humorous production with a particularly poignant narrative for our post-#MeToo society.

Sellman-Leava comments: “The last couple of years have seen a huge shift in the way we think about gender, power and behaviour. With its perspective on how different men perform their masculinity – and the effect this can have on themselves and others – I hope Monster can be a part of this ongoing conversation.”

Directed by Katharina Reinthaller, audiences in Bristol will also have the opportunity to see the ground-breaking Labels (which played at the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2017). Drawing on Sellman-Leava’s experiences of being mixed-heritage, it discusses issues of racism, immigration and displacement in modern British society.

This production questions the markers individuals are given by others and how these constructed identities become a defining attribute of their existence. Throughout the production, Sellman-Leava attaches white stickers to himself as a physical manifestation of the labels he has been given during his life. Sellman-Leava invites the audience to challenge the labels they give and receive, as he tries to answer a question he is often asked: ‘where are you from?’.

Sellman-Leava adds: “When Labels was first made and performed, conversations and events around ethnicity, migration and displacement were already volatile. It has been both sad and scary to see the show become increasingly relevant as we’ve toured it around the world. But I still hope it leaves people feeling uplifted: whilst bittersweet, it is ultimately a hopeful story.”

Monster and Labels plays at The Wardrobe Theatre, The Old Market Assembly, 25 West Street, Old Market, Bristol, BS2 0DF from 21st January to 24th January 2020. Tickets available here

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