Browse reviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2022


Worklight Theatre

Genre: Multimedia, Theatre

Venue: Pleasance Dome


Low Down

Joe Sellman-Leava tackles both the joy and the dark side of fandom in this endearing tale of nerdiness and self-discovery. A touching and quietly relevant show with moments of magic.


Joe is a nerd and always has been. His relationship with his nerdiness has changed over the years, a journey that will surely be familiar to many of us with niche obsessive interests. The childhood joy, the teenage shame, then the gradual acceptance of the fact that it is ok to love the things you love.

Set amongst boardgames, VHS tapes and old television set gifted to him by his uncle, Fanboy traces Joe’s journey through fandom, from his first midnight Star Wars screening to his growing realisation that there is a darker side to nerd culture. Joe is played by performer and writer Joe Sellman-Leava, a gifted actor with an endearing vulnerability that suits this monologue perfectly. He is also a talented impressionist, and the play is peppered with pitch-perfect vocal impersonations – honestly, his one-man run through of A Muppet Christmas Carol is a joy to behold.

The script is complemented by some clever technology which has been seamlessly integrated into the show. There are plenty of little touches that add a bit of magic to proceedings, such as his uncle’s old television which allows Joe to talk to a younger version of himself, wonderfully played by Ethan El Shaater.

A love of Star Wars, War Hammer, and Superman provides Joe with community, belonging, and friendships, but as he grows older and world events take a turn for the worse, he begins to realise that there is a darker side too. The parallels that Sellman-Leava draws between world events and the nasty side of fandom are keenly observed and more relevant than ever, as he digs into why the things he loves have become a rallying point for territorialism and hatred for others. As nerd culture has become popular culture perhaps it is unsurprising that it has been swept up in the endless culture wars that seem to divide us.

For those of us with our own geeky passions, there will be plenty to recognise in Fanboy, but if you aren’t as familiar with the worlds of Tolkien, Marvel, or Doctor Who, there is plenty for you here too. Ultimately this is a tale of finding your people, of what it means to belong, and how our passions can bring us joy in an increasingly dark world, if that is the choice we make for ourselves.