The landscape of fandom has changed over the decades. Loving things such as Warhammer or Star Wars has become more acceptable over the years, and at the same time, the relationship between fan and media has never been more hotly contested.
Joe Sellman’s show Fanboy is the ‘sort-of’ auto-biographical story of Joe, a 30-ish year old chap who grew up with a love of things such as Superman, Star Wars, Bird-Watching, David Attenborough, playing Donkey Kong Country and all sorts of geeky things. Joe is sort of person who considers The Muppet’s Christmas Carol to be the definitive classic and thanks to his uncle, saw the original Star Wars trilogy when he was young enough to be filled with wonder.
The show begins with Joe reminiscing over his childhood, and fretting that one of his prize possessions, a Walker’s crisps Jar Jar Binks Sticky Tongue Toy seems missing from the impressive display of geek things on the stage. As Joe explores why he loves the things he loves and how it’s shaped not only his world-view, but also his friendships and relationships, the narrative also delves into childhood nostalgia. A key moment is when Joe saw The Phantom Menace, a movie he still loves to this day.
There is a key point where this tale dips into a kind of fantasy. It’s carefully done but all is not what it seems with 30-something Joe; he’s at the risk of losing something a lot more precious than his Jar Jar Binks toy. As the tale unfolds, we get this very cleverly produced drama about what it means to be a fan in the modern age, and how to hold on to things we hold dear.
The show explores the toxic side of fandom but ultimately this is a story about love and joy; about choosing the harder, kinder, more caring path and fighting for the right thing, even if one does not feel especially brave. The show is filled with clever references to geeky movies and the narrative is stacked in such a way that we slowly understand exactly what is happening to Joe.
Over in Starburst Tower’s we’ve seen many ‘geek inspired’ stage shows, but this is the finest we’ve seen; similar shows seem to go to heavy on the darker side of fandom or dip into the sorrowful side of nostalgia. Fanboy avoids this through sheer fannish glees. The show is a joy to watch; Joe Sellman is having a fantastic time on stage and it’s equally fantastic to watch.
This is beautiful, heartfelt, incredibly funny and brutally honest. A must-see for anyone who calls themselves a fanboy.