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Wasteman review (Edinburgh Fringe)

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Joe Leather’s drag show ‘Wasteman’ has been receiving stellar reviews after a successful sell-out run at the VAULT Festival earlier this year. Inspired by Leather’s experience working as a refuse loader during lockdown, the production has now transferred to Edinburgh for three weeks. In a slightly different format to VAULT due to injury but no less exciting and emotional, Wasteman covers navigating a less than glamorous day job despite having dreams of being a drag queen. When I received the invitation to review, I spotted Leather’s tagline of ‘When life gives you garbage, make it gorgeous.’ and it was just another reason why I wanted to see the production at the Fringe.

Wasteman poster on the Mound in Edinburgh city centre, Edinburgh Fringe

Multiple genres

Wasteman is a show that covers multiple genres: drag, comedy, drama and music. It’s a brilliant example of a Fringe variety show, filled with plenty of humour, glitter and emotion. The sentiment behind the work is really honest and genuine, encouraging members of the ‘imaginary audience’ to be their true selves.

If you take away the glitz, glamour and garbage, there are extremely distressing and triggering themes covered within the content, specifically around homophobia and identity. Additionally, there is an excessive amount of swearing and crude humour in the script which adds to the hilarity of the show, but the amount of expletives is borderline too much in places. My favourite parts of the play are when the protagonist reflects on their life experiences with vulnerability, worlds away from the swearing about former partners.

Production photo for Wasteman by Joe Leather
© Corinne Cumming

Format and structure

The production starts with a song from Leather, about how ‘one man’s treasure is another man’s trash’. Straightaway I was impressed by their vocals and stage presence. One-person productions are always challenging because everybody’s eyes are on the performer for the entire length of the show, but Leather takes this in their stride, from the very first note.

The play switches between the past and present, with the character sharing details about current and former relationships, friendships and working as a refuse loader. The various time jumps make it difficult to follow parts of the plot in places, so much so that I found myself missing some key details from the material. The show is split into several sections but quick transitions blur the lines between the past and present. The show could benefit from a more defined structure, leaving room for the audience to better connect the dots between the various time periods and stories featured. The importance of the different anecdotes did become clear for me towards the end of the show though, with the important timelines falling into place.

Wasteman by Joe Leather promotional card in front of the set at Edinburgh Fringe

Set, lighting and costumes 

Leather’s performance space at the Fringe in Assembly George Square Underground is perfect for Wasteman, with the shimmering curtains and disco ball hanging from the ceiling. I’m not sure if this is actually part of Leather’s staging or permanently based in the Edinburgh University location where Leather performs, but when the lighting effects bounce off the disco ball, there is an amazing shimmer across the room.

Neon and glow in the dark features are used within the costumes, lifting the overall visual design of the show and reflecting the drag and party themes. It also works really well with the high visibility jacket and refuse loader angle of the play, creating a distinct purple and yellow colour palette for the production.

Production photo for Wasteman by Joe Leather
© Corinne Cumming

What’s next for Wasteman?

Leather is a born performer and Wasteman is a poignant and fun example of new writing at the Fringe. You can catch them at Assembly George Square Studios – Underground (venue #17) from 5th to 28th August, excluding the 17th. Tickets can be purchased via the Fringe or Assembly box offices.

Thanks for reading my blog today.

Love Kat xxxx

*My ticket for Wasteman was gifted in exchange for a review.



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