“Wasteman”, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Assembly George Square Studios – Underground
18:00. Duration 1 hour.

To 28 August

20 August 2023
Maggie Rose in Edinburgh

On this year’s Fringe, 20 years after the repeal of Section 28, works written, performed and produced by the LGBT community are everywhere.

I caught Joe Leather’s one-person play, Wasteman. The lead character works as a bin man for the local council but dreams of becoming a drag queen and creates a character Mariah Scary.

The songs are highly original. It should be said that this is not a musical but rather a play with music. Leather has a pedigree of writing musicals and has appeared in major commercial musicals including Jersey Boys.

The playwright, who was raised in Nottingham, spent time during the Pandemic working for the city council’s refuse department. You can see tension between an ultra-macho world and one that draws on femininity being used to good effect here.

We watch the character dressing up in their sister’s clothes, getting ready for the local drag queen contest and hear their tale of the drag queen friend who was violently attacked and ended up in hospital, critically ill.

Running through the story is the character’s determination to succeed as a drag queen in the face of prejudice and adversity. Unfortunately, due to an injury on the first day of the Fringe, much of the show’s physicality has had to be reduced, including the use of high heels.

Cutting down on the high jinks has not however detracted from the compelling nature of the story which sees a comedic take on events used to make more serious points that are deeply moving.

The smoothness of the presentation, despite this physical setback, is presumably derived from a preview in Nottingham. Reflecting on the stint as a refuse collector, Leather has said that it was tolerable because it was a given that it was not going anywhere. Leather may go somewhere with projects like this.