Following five bambi-legged first year university students and a flourishing bond between two gay guys, one of which is deaf, NOISE is Tom Moran’s glorious debut opening in Birmingham a little later next month.
The show is an exciting new venture, offering LGBT+ narratives on stages not necessarily in London. Regionality has been integral to Moran in creating his debut, with home and heritage at the roots of his work. A one time usher to a writer of his own work, Birmingham’s creative showcase has been at the forefront of the piece’s creation.
Previously working front of house in a Birmingham theatre, Tom was approached by a group of deaf theatre go-ers awaiting to see a signed performance and struggled to connect with them as they took to their seats.
“I felt entirely ignorant and incapable of having a simple interaction with them,” he admits. “Seconds later they navigated their own way to their seats leaving me disappointed yet wanting to learn. I wanted to understand who or what the barrier is and how society and life in general is experienced in both worlds.”
Exploring youth, LGBT+ and hard of hearing communities, NOISE is one step ahead of the game, appealing to audiences not widely represented in commercial or regional theatre, while enticing a fresh new generation of theatre-goers to be encapsulated inside Birmingham’s auditoriums. Every performance of the show is signed, captioned and audio described.
We caught up with Tom to discuss the importance of representation, seeking stages outside of Birmingham and the future of LGBT+ theatre.
What was the importance of debuting this play outside of London?
I’ve always felt that I want my work to be created and to première in Birmingham as there is a warmth and a sense of home within the city and to have this opportunity to debut my first piece of written work in such a stunning venue, is a top-of-the-bucket-list item. I am excited to embrace the local communities, which for me, is the most important thing.
As a young gay man from Birmingham, I find it very hard to find theatre in my local area that speaks to me and represents my community. I therefore, in 2015, began writing a piece of theatre that embodies those communities I felt underrepresented or ostracised. I am wholly captured by regional theatre as I believe now is the time we need to contend with London and have our creative voices from every community collectively heard and represented.
How have you worked with the deaf community to create NOISE?
Working on the (now) Olivier Nominated, The Government Inspector with Ramps on the Moon and Birmingham Repertory Theatre gave me the honour of sharing the experience alongside a powerhouse cast of d/deaf, hearing, disabled and not artists. As a Performing Captioner on this national tour, I was contributing to the accessible nature of the production and collaborated with the company to ensure it was achieved effectively for its users. Meanwhile, I was also mid-way through the process of re-drafting NOISE and I began to share revisions with members of the cast, both hearing and non, to get an idea of whether it was achieving the desired mark. Those who read the text contributed to what the play is in its final form and since day one, I always knew I wanted this piece to be inclusive of every community as for me, theatre is a place of no boundaries.
And I assume the show is accessible to deaf people?
It was crucial and always integral that the show would not only be accessible to deaf people, but to everybody. We have taken a bold step in making NOISE a fully accessible production offering Captioning, BSL Interpreting/Signing and Audio Description at every performance.
What can commercial theatre learn from fringe theatre about the inclusion of both LGBTQ+ and hard of hearing communities?
Much like Disney’s recent (yet incredibly late) move of subtly introducing gay characters into their work, the theatre industry need to be more representative and considerate of writing for voices that are not primarily non-disabled, hearing and straight. Whilst this is incredibly difficult and a show that encompasses all of these diversities is never going to be achieved as there will always be one thing missing, it is our duty to somehow eradicate the peculiar reactions that can be observed, for example: seeing a gay couple on stage and screen. Theatre companies such as Graeae Theatre Company and Talawa Theatre Company are driving the diversity train at full steam in the right direction, inspiring new artists, breaking down boundaries and eliminating exclusivity.
How does NOISE differ to existing LGBT+ theatre?
It’s safe to say that LGBT+ theatre within the regional realm is a novelty and at most, a rarity. London have venues around the city that specifically stage productions for the community, but even this, I feel is strange. Somehow, LGBTQ+ theatre/stories are not making the stages of the bigger theatres. NOISE is different to existing productions because it confronts sexuality in the pandemonium of university and how being in such demanding confines might infuse difference of opinions and influence person’s character. Not only this, but there is currently no other theatrical production that explores the crossover between a youthful gay love story with the access boundaries with the deaf and hearing communities which is an interesting area of unknown politics I am excited to discuss.
What do you hope people will take away from NOISE?
Many of the creative and production team who have seen this piece come to fruition are either gay/bisexual/lesbian emerging creatives, which is incredibly empowering as we bring together a collective voice to champion our community. Not only this, but the subject matter NOISE tackles represents communities I feel aren’t often shown in theatre whilst also celebrating how diversity enriches people. It will hopefully encourage the next wave of LGBTQ+, d/deaf and disabled artists to create and share their voice with confidence and integrity.
The production will run for 6 performances between 13-15 April at The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham. Tickets available here.