Review Behind the label, Theatre Versus Oppression and Wales Millennium Centre by Rhys Payne

 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Behind The Label is a production by Theatre Versus Oppression supported by both the Wallich charity and Wales Millennium Centre itself (which is where this production was held) is a very important piece of awareness of important issues that anyone can face.

The name in itself is an incredible creative decision. The show is called ‘Behind The Label’ and it is about a group of people who are judged and many people have negative pre-convinced ideas about. But by these people telling their real stories, they are portrayed as normal everyday people who have gotten into bad situations (like anyone can) it is literally exploring the people ‘behind the label’s. This is defiantly not a family-friendly show and is clearly targeted at a more mature audience due to the nature of this show. It includes references to addictions, sex and drug use as well as very strong language.

The show is about a group of people who share their stories of how they ended up homeless but also discusses how some of them ended up in prison, addicted to drugs etc. There are only a few ‘characters’ in this show (namely the air hostess) but everyone one is simply playing themselves and talking about their personal experiences. These are normal everyday people who have lived through horrendous experiences and helps the audience understand how easy it is to end up in similar situations and that it isn’t always necessarily the individual’s fault/choice.

One of the many ideas people nowadays about homeless people is that’s it’s their choice and that they are doing it just for the money but this show aims to dispel those types of myths. This show defiantly gives a voice to those who are literally and figuratively ignored both in real life and in theatre by allowing people who have actually experienced these things to talk about everything that happened. Because of the real-ness of the narratives, this is an incredibly moving and emotional show that had the audience and even members of the cast in tears. However, the whole show isn’t all serious and deep there was a very hilarious sketch that occurred as a replacement for in-flight entertainment. They used a massive projection screen (which they also used to show interview-style scene) to show a recording of the exact same cast on stage recreating the iconic Britney Spears song ‘Toxic’ while this was hilariously funny, it also worked really well due to the lyrics relating to the nature of the show.

At first, I thought the fact that this play was set on a plane with the name ‘Easy Inject’ was really strange. But after a while, this became very clear. Many things in the show related to the plan such as not belonging as you don’t have a ticket, taking a leap of faith and actually the Toxic video was historically also set on a plane. This inclusion was a very clever way to transition from story to story as were all of the tying together key ideas in the show. The other unusual thing about this show is that from my perspective the script didn’t particularly matter as it was about each individual story rather than a bigger overarching narrative. In fact, that was a moment towards the end of the show where one actor forgot their lines and someone else helped them on stage which didn’t take anything away from the show in the slightest.

The issue I had with this show was not at all the cast or the creative team but rather with the audience. During the production, I watched there was a member of the audience who decided to shout empowering messages throughout. While I understand being incredibly moved by the stories being told, I do think that this was distracting for the other audience members and clearly put off some of the cast. Ignoring this though, overall this is an incredibly important piece of theatre that is all about giving a voice to the voiceless. It did everything it needed to do and had the audience feeling the full range of emotions. I would rate this play 5 out of 5 stars and would encourage people who interested in how theatre can be used to empower people, to catch this show before it’s gone!

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