What Do Race Labels Really Achieve? Joe Sellman-Leava Explores With His Play Labels


Labels by Joe Sellman-Leava

UK Tour January – July 2016
London Press Performance: Thursday 7th April 2016

When I was four years old, my Dad was told our surname might be stopping him from getting a job. So we changed it. It worked.
Worklight Theatre’s award-winning show Labels draws on writer and performer Joe Sellman- Leava’s experiences of being mixed heritage to explore broader issues of racism, immigration and displacement. Labels examines 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 are really thrilled that Labels is now travelling to so many parts of the UK (and beyond!) in 2016. Although the story is incredibly personal to me, we always wanted itto connect with as many people as possible. Many people have experiences of being labelled for different reasons. It’s this variety of adversity that Labels talks about.

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 a Scotsman Fringe First Award and the Holden Street Theatre Award at Edinburgh Fringe 2015. It was also shortlisted for the Amnesty International’s Freedom of Expression Award.

Tour Dates: 




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s