Amy catches up with Joe Sellman-Leava, writer and performer of Fanboy, which is currently touring across the UK.
Can you tell us a little bit about the show?
It’s about the things we love – whether it’s Nintendo, Star Wars or the Muppets – and the connections and communities that form around them. Fanboy looks at the joy nostalgia and fandom can bring, as well as the cost of obsession and being stuck in the past.
How do you think fandom/fanboys have evolved from 1980 to today?
The internet and social media have of course had a huge impact – some of good, some of it less so. As a tool to help people find communities and share their favourite things, it’s brought more people together. Yet it can also be incredibly divisive, with many fan spaces – especially digital ones, becoming quite toxic. The Star Wars fandom, for all its many positives, has unfortunately not been immune to that. I do think there’s a big difference between the kind of community and energy that can exist in a physical space, as opposed to a digital one, which is why I wanted this story to be a piece of theatre, first and foremost.
What place do you think fandoms have in the world?
I think it’s important for people feeling like they have spaces in which they can find common ground with people, and to share the things that bring them joy, whether it’s around a sport, a film franchise, or a video game. I also think we need to be wary of how this kind of kind of in-group/out-group mentality can spill over – and has spilled over – into public life, such as culture wars and political factions. Many of the cultural touchstones and big stories that have the power to bring us together, can also be used to drive people apart.
In the show, you interact with your younger self. Is that a sort of cathartic experience? If you could give your younger self advice, what would it be?
I think it is cathartic, yes. It starts out as a moment of real joy and surprise, and I have a lot of fun performing those sections, but it then evolves into something at the heart of the show’s themes and questions. I think the advice I would give, if I could, is to be a little braver.
Why should audiences see Fanboy?
It’s a good night out, with lots of fun, laughter and a heartfelt story, and will leave you and your friends plenty to think and talk about!
You can read Tom’s 2023 VAULTS review of Fanboy here.