“I am a little bit of a nerd,” smiles Joe Sellman-Leava, playing himself, or at least a version of himself he’s willing to portray to audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe. There’s something inherently British about the way he says that: what he really means is that his nerdiness can’t help but shine through and it becomes evident very quickly to anyone to spends more than a few minutes in his company. His obsessions, as it turns out, are quite eclectic, including but not limited to the Harry Potter franchise to the Labour Party to the American television drama series The West Wing. There are theories and ideas abound about the narratives in certain motion pictures (all of which are sufficiently explained, even if much of it is unmemorable to almost all but fellow nerdy types).
If it were up to me – and it isn’t, so this is purely hypothetical – I’d put some discussion of continuity errors into the script, especially as a quick Google search revealed there are quite a few in the Star Wars series, which Joe is particularly interested in. It would demonstrate Joe’s intricate knowledge even more. For reasons explained in the narrative, Joe retains the use of a VHS player to this day. For the record, there isn’t a Betamax player in the room – as Joe is currently thirty years of age, it’s entirely possible he never owned one himself. Unsurprisingly, there are video projections to be seen.
As if the story couldn’t get any broader, there’s some consideration given, once the narrative reaches the last few years, to the political situation in Britain. This isn’t a show trying to garner votes for a particular party, or to advance any given specific cause, but rather discusses the shift in attitudes. People may have agreed to disagree before, or otherwise maintained friendships and family ties, even where political ideologues between people are markedly different. But Joe finds himself in a position where friends who voted differently to him in That Referendum (you know the one) are no longer on speaking terms with him.
Joe is quite the impressionist. I have no idea how many characters were voiced, partly because I couldn’t keep up with his rapid-fire delivery, and my knowledge of Star Wars is, in a word, sparse. I doubt Joe is the only one out there who has looked into the question of whether childhood interests should be ditched. As St Paul put it in 1 Corinthians chapter XIII, verse XI: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” But what if it’s possible to continue draw inspiration and make a positive difference from things that remain important to someone as a child?
There’s a healthy balance in this show between sufficiently demonstrating nerdiness and having a strong real-world perspective: this geek can hardly be accused of losing his grip on reality. This thoughtful and charming show is so briskly-paced it manages to squeeze in more material in one hour than some others do in two-and-a-half. Worth seeing.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Fringe-first award winner Joe Sellman-Leava (Labels, Monster) explores our relationship with our past and future selves, in this love-hate letter to pop culture and nostalgia. Expect epic storytelling, razor-sharp impressions and a dose of theatrical magic in this world premiere!
Joe has always been a nerd. In his teens, he hid it. In his twenties, he owned it. Now in his thirties, Joe is still obsessed with Nintendo, Star Wars and A Muppets Christmas Carol. But he’s started to notice something about the way certain fans are behaving. Something unsettling, which is making him question things he was always sure about. When Joe finds himself alone, in his old room, sorting through his old things, he finds an old video tape. He dusts off the VCR, presses play… and something incredible starts to happen!
Fringe First award winner returns with Fanboy
Pleasance Dome (10 Dome), Potterow, Edinburgh, EH8 9AL
Wednesday 3rd – Monday 29th August 2022