Review: Fanboy, VAULT Festival

Joe Sellman-Leava’s Fanboy is a sensitive yet entertaining look at fandom at VAULT Festival

“I was just a boy, I just liked what I liked wholeheartedly”

The rise of the nerd has been an interesting one to track over the decades. Long an object of derision, the birth of the internet and the explosive success of huge franchises like Marvel have thrust them firmly into the mainstream and that has had a major impact, explored at both the micro- and macro- level in Joe Sellman-Leava’s sensitive yet entertaining one-man-show Fanboy.

From the Nintendo games console still in its box so that the plastic doesn’t change colour to the lightsaber tucked into his dressing gown, it is clear that Joe is fully embracing his nerd nature. But it wasn’t always that way and as he spots an old VHS from his 8th birthday party, harking back to a time when he’d not even been introduced to Star Wars yet, we get to see that journey with perspective.

There’s real joy in finding something you love, and sharing it with others who love it too, and Sellman-Leava conveys that beautifully, through the connection it built with favourite uncles and close friends. But it can easily toxify into something obsessive too and in the latter case particularly, there’s a powerful evocation of just how twisted and dark those thoughts can become, shaping both personal relationships and links with the outside world, even as it all turns to shit (the Brexit as melted ice-cream analogy is genius!).

Director Yaz Al-Shaater plays effectively with light and shade of Fanboy, Dylan Howells’ technical design allowing for unexpected but brilliant intergenerational interplay. And Sellman-Leava’s gift for impressive impressions allows for real humour to break through at key moments, alongside his enduring love for The Muppet’s Christmas Carol. (#justiceforWhenLoveIsGone)

Running time: 60 minutes (without interval)
Fanboy is booking at VAULT Festival until 12th March

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