We spoke to writer and performer and writer Joe Leather about his upcoming show Wasteman at VAULT Festival
What inspired you to create this show?
I was working in Shanghai over lockdown when COVID happened, and found myself stranded in the UK with uncertain prospects. To make ends meet I got a job at a jewellery shop which closed the day I was meant to start. From there,I stumbled into a line of work which I was sure wouldn’t be going anywhere: refuse collection. While working there full time, I also created a drag persona, Mariah Scarey, to entertain my friends on Zoom.Being a bin-man moonlighting as a drag queen (or maybe a drag queen moonlighting is a bin-man?) Is how ‘Wasteman’ was born.
What were the main challenges in your creative process?
Editing the material was very difficult. So many ridiculous things happened in my time as a refuse loader: I was cursed by a witch for not letting her put a dead pheasant in the recycling, we had an on-going feud with a local old people’s home and at one point an actual crime scene was discovered. None of this is in the show. I had to be ruthless in deciding what was a great story to tell in the pub and what would actually serve the over-arching message of the piece.
Events in the play are also drawn from certain tragedies in my life. Mining this trauma was difficult, but I’m so proud of what I’ve created and hope that it serves as something that heals and resonates with anyone who has gone through similar hardships.
What can the audience expect from Wasteman?
Original songs, fabulous outfits and a wheelie bin! Wasteman is a raucous comedy and a love-letter to the hard-working Northerners I grew up around . However, it’s also a deeply moving piece about the struggles queer people face in a world that isn’t always kind to them. Ultimately though, an audience can expect to leave feeling uplifted and ready to take life’s garbage and make it gorgeous.
Where do you see Wasteman going?
There are some dates in the diary already. Brighton Fringe on the 25th and 26th of May, Greater Manchester Fringe on the 5th and 6th of July, with other festivals to be announced soon. I hope to take it to Edinburgh, would love a chance to perform a longer run in London, and am already manifesting a West End transfer and million-pound Netflix deal.
What excites you most about taking part in VAULT Festival?
Being part of such a vibrant and talented community. The vibes are immaculate and all the artists are so supportive of each other. Everything I’ve seen so far has been highly inspiring, and I’m looking forward to seeing more work in the coming months!
See Wasteman at VAULT Festival Tue 14th Feb – Thu 16th Feb, more details here!