This performance takes place in the studio at Gerry's, right opposite Theatre Royal Stratford East.

Worklight Theatre’s multi-award winning show is a funny, moving and honest story about mixed heritage and immigration. Joe Sellman-Leava’s comedy, poetry and storytelling charts a childhood in 90’s rural England, shifting political landscapes and global refugee crisis.

Winner of both a Scotsman Fringe First Award and Holden Street Theatres’ Edinburgh Award, and shortlisted for the Amnesty International’s Freedom of Expression Award, Labels returns to the UK after touring to the Perth and Adelaide festivals in Australia.


'Terrific and really thoughtful' Lyn Gardner - The Guardian

'Powerful, important and funny' Emma Thompson


★★★★★      British Theatre Guide

★★★★★      Broadway Baby

★★★★★      Three Weeks

★★★★★      Edinburgh Evening News

★★★★          The Scotsman

★★★★          The List

★★★★          Edinburgh Spotlight


Q&A with Joe Sellman-Leava

Q&A with Labels writer and performer Joe Sellman-Leava

What’s the format of the show and how would you summarise it?

The show is just me as a single performer on stage performing multiple personas: I mimic a variety of politicians and public figures talking about immigration, culture and ethnicity. I talk as myself directly to the audience about my own mixed heritage and my experiences of racism, and also as my Dad, as if he were telling me stories about his own experiences of coming to the UK as a young boy and growing up as a British man from an Indian family.

What has been the reaction to it so far?

The reaction has generally been very positive: lots of people from a variety of ages, backgrounds and places have seen it and often wanted to talk about their own experiences of prejudice - whether they've felt it or perhaps a friend or family member.

How do you feel about it coming to Stratford?

I and the rest of the team (Worklight Theatre) are incredibly excited! It's a place with a rich history, a great programme of work and a loyal audience base. We feel very honoured to be part of the launch of the new space!


What has been your personal experience of racism?

For me it's been a strong of unpleasant words or exchanges, peppered throughout my life. For my Dad, it was worse, partly because of the time in which he grew up. For others around the world though, racial prejudice remains a stark reality and the consequences are worse still.

Is it hard drawing on your personal experiences?

Not now the show is 'finished' and touring. But the thing I found hardest in the process was treating my parents' stories properly. They gave them with a lot of trust and I wanted to ensure there was integrity and respect for this - not to exploit it in any way!

How does it feel to have support from Emma Thompson?

Emma Thompson's workshop in 2009 was the spark that started the show, and I met her by chance again in 2015, hours before doing a short performance of the version I'd been re-working. She took the script and emailed some weeks later with some encouraging words and a suggestion. It felt amazing because I have so much respect for what she's done as a writer, actor and activist.

What do you want people to take away from the show?

To laugh, to be drawn in by the story, and to leave the show thinking and talking about what it meant to them.

Vox Pops

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