FANBOY – REVIEW – VAULT FESTIVAL

Shuffling on stage, lightsaber in hand, dressing gown reminiscent of a Jedi robe, Superman t-shirt underneath and generally dishevelled, writer/performer Joe Sellman-Leava certainly looks the part. In the first of his many skilful impressions throughout the hour, the avuncular tones of Sir David Attenborough comically introduce the habits of this peculiar species known as The Fanboy, studying him in his native environment.

Structured as a confessional, Sellman-Leava anxiously presents his life story to the gathered. He is not so comfortable socialising in crowds, he explains. The ephemera of his fixations are on display. A faithfully serving VHS machine. Nintendo cartridges and console (never taken out of its box to avoid damage). Graphic novels. Fantasy book series. Figurines. Jar Jar Binks. The references extend to Game of Thrones, so Joe is keeping his fandom current. He is a lifer, not a mere tourist.

While showing footage from his carefree 8th birthday party, a peculiar glitch occurs-there appears to be a ghost in the machine. Consulting with his tech designer Dylan as to what might be the cause, no reasonable explanation may be found. His younger self has broken free from the constraint of record and begins an intergenerational conversation with his older self. The director’s nephew, an endearing Ethan Al-Shaater, very nearly steals the show in this section. Rambunctious, inquisitive, open, guileless, and untainted by experience, he is pure, unadulterated joy, on the cusp of having those first encounters that will go on to define his life and passions. Joe looks upon him with a mix of bewilderment, envy, and melancholy. This is extraordinary work, especially as the sequence was filmed separately and integrated into the live-action on stage. Al-Shaater exhibits a focus and presence that belies his age. Credit also to director/video & sound designer Yaz Al-Shaater, who effortlessly convinces the audience that timelines have been breached. 

Sellman-Leava explores both the exhilarations and the darker sides of fandom, especially with the growth of the internet and its ability to exponentially expand reach between people. Joe fondly remembers a time just before the internet revolution, at a midnight showing with his favourite uncle (a partner in crime) when the incendiary moment that set off his inveterate fandom hit. The deep connection with the collective crowd swallowed him up in an annihilation of pleasure.

Joe’s faltering relationship with a fellow fan, a teenage comrade, provides the cautionary tale, his friend falling down a toxic rabbit hole of entitled anger and rage, the rancid, unregulated echo chamber of the internet providing him refuge and forum. He also represents the fan who claims unjust ownership of a work, offended should an artist dare to espouse an idea or opinion with which they may disagree. There is also a wistful analysis of the ways in which world events and personal upheavals may permanently mark the ways in which we receive our favoured cultural properties, unable to watch them with the innocence we first brought to them. Yet perhaps they also provide a means back to what has been lost, a virtuous state. Sellman-Leava shoehorns in an ambitious, sometimes unwieldy, amount of political and social issues (Brexit, global rise of nationalism), which at least provide an opportunity to experience both his sharp impersonations of Boris and Trump. He poignantly and concisely leads the audience through the life and quiet death of a romantic relationship forged in the flames of fandom.  

There is rather too much of his villainously tiresome middle-aged self who appears in the latter stages, cynically egging him on to sabotage his younger self, disabusing him of his innocence. A demand that Joe, thankfully, rejects. And a working knowledge of Star Wars mythology and The Muppet Christmas Carol may greatly aid in comprehending some of the specifics.

Looking across the years, Joe celebrates the simple but profound delights of fandom while never ignoring how many may weaponise or twist them. And he chooses to cherish and protect the spirit that gave rise to his lifelong passions, preserving it, a sacrosanct connection. Sensitive, and thoughtful, this works insists on the compensatory value of clear-headed fandom as a bulwark against the tyranny of reality.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

SAVE THE VAULT FESTIVAL

VAULT Festival has been left without a venue for 2024’s festival and beyond
• VAULT Festival have launched a #SaveVAULT campaign
• The campaign aims are to raise £150,000 by 19th March to support the festival’s survival AND to secure a new home for the festival to continue.
• You can help by donating, helping access funding networks, and helping then find a venue.
• You are officially implored to make the most of 2023’s Festival while it lasts!

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

2 Star Review 3 Star Review 4 Star Review 5 Star Review 2022 2023 Adaptation Almeida Cabaret Camden Fringe Cast Announcement Christmas Comedy Dance Drag Edinburgh Fringe Edinburgh Fringe Interviews Fringe Immersive Interviews Jukebox Musical LGBTQIA+ Lyric Hammersmith Manchester Musical New Musical News New Wimbledon Theatre North West Off West End Park Theatre Play Review Revival Richmond Theatre Round Up Royal Court Theatre Shakespeare Show Announcement Show Recommendations Soho Theatre Southwark Playhouse Touring Production VAULT Festival West End

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{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

2 Star Review 3 Star Review 4 Star Review 5 Star Review 2022 2023 Adaptation Almeida Cabaret Camden Fringe Cast Announcement Christmas Comedy Dance Drag Edinburgh Fringe Edinburgh Fringe Interviews Fringe Immersive Interviews Jukebox Musical LGBTQIA+ Lyric Hammersmith Manchester Musical New Musical News New Wimbledon Theatre North West Off West End Park Theatre Play Review Revival Richmond Theatre Round Up Royal Court Theatre Shakespeare Show Announcement Show Recommendations Soho Theatre Southwark Playhouse Touring Production VAULT Festival West End

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    The infamous Sh!t Faced Showtime are back in London with a festive edition, they have taken Dickens’ classic and put a drunken spin on it. The formula is the same as other iterations of the Shi!t Faced shows, one member of the cast has been boozing, and this time it is John Milton who plays Scrooge. Before the show, half a bottle of Jim Beam, some wine, and beer have been consumed in the previous 4 hours. The rest of the cast, try to keep the show on track, also aided by James Murfitt as the compere, Charles Dickens. The … More A PISSEDMAS CAROL – REVIEW – LEICESTER SQUARE
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