In his show, Joe Sellman-Leava plays himself and other people he knows as he tells his life story.
But Emma Thompson isn’t one of them, despite being involved in the conception of Labels.
While I don’t play Emma Thompson, I credit her with the creation of this showJoe Sellman-Leava
The seeds of the show were sown during a workshop hosted by the two-time Oscar winner at the University of Exeter, Joe’s alma mater.
The themes of identity, conflict and exclusion that Thompson explored with the class resonated with Joe, who is of mixed heritage.
After winning awards for the show at Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year, Joe brings Labels to the Spring in Havant on January 21 as part of a UK and Australian tour.
He says: ‘While I don’t play Emma Thompson, I credit her with the creation of this show; her workshop gave me the initial spark of an idea.’
Joe describes Labels as ‘the story of my family and my personal experiences of being mixed heritage’, told through comedy and audience interaction.
‘My father is Indian, and came to the UK from Uganda. He met my mother, who is white British. It is normal for me, but not for a lot of people.
‘The show’s a framework to talk about multiculturalism, and how politicians and the media use labels like immigrant versus what they really mean.’
He cites an example that he uses in the show – why his father changed his surname to Sellman-Leava from Patel.
‘My father wasn’t getting any work, and his friend told him it could be because of his name.
‘He changed it and quickly got a job after that. It happened in other families too.’
Joe says that a chance encounter with Thompson a few years later led to her reading his script and giving him feedback.
‘I was rehearsing this show, and she was rehearsing for Sweeney Todd. I told her about how the workshop inspired the play, and she took my e-mail and the script.
‘A few weeks later she emailed back and was really encouraging, but at the bottom she put “PS - It could be even funnier”.
‘She suggested I stick labels to the audience, which is something I do in the show.’
Tickets: £12.50, visit thespring.co.uk to book.