Wasteman - Photo by Corinne Cumming

Review: Wasteman at VAULT Festival ★★★★★

Wasteman is an irresistible, uplifting, Northern drag odyssey, packed with original writing and A-list performance prowess.

Wasteman | VAULT Festival | 14-16 February | £13

Joe Leather is a must-see performer. Oozing charm with a northern brogue and a quick fire comic timing, Wasteman takes drag to the theatre in style!

The story centres around a quite simple but satisfying premise: bin man by day, and winner of the prestigious ‘Miss Stoke’ drag competition by night, perhaps? In drag queen persona dreams at least! The unexpected oxymoron of the worlds of refuse collection and high glamour is a treat as it unfolds.

The story works best when it tackles real issues around internalised homophobia, particularly within the gay cis male community. Wasteman pushes back against critiques – such as: why can’t gay men just be men – which attempt to belittle drag and ‘feminine’ traits. Another poignant element is the exploration of violence shown to the drag queens as they try to get a cab, only to be pushed aside by a group of rowdy women (and one violent man).

Wasteman - Photo by Corinne Cumming
Wasteman – Photo by Corinne Cumming

This very authentic-feeling incident in the narrative takes place not far from Canal Street in Manchester. It shows that even in a safe space, and despite the progress that has been made, there are still horrendous incidents that scar the LGBTQIA+ community every day. Rest in Peace Brianna Ghey.

The writing is funny as f*ck, box-fresh and confessional – but ultimately relatable and down to earth. Wasteman feels like it could be a great TV pilot, or even have a life extended a little as something akin to Everyone’s Talking About Jamie. On that note, it’s so refreshing to hear original songs in a drag show, so Harry Franceschi’s are a great addition.

Some of the character names and Sega Saturn references (Gen Z? See ‘retro games console’) were a little hard to follow at times. But overall this didn’t matter too much as the exquisite performance of Joe Leather soon gets you back into the tale.

Wasteman gives us all hope to live with queer joy, and humanises a filthy job that we all so desperately rely on. Remember: ‘When life gives you garbage, make it gorgeous.’.

Main photo by Corinne Cumming

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