Thomas Moran is the Artistic Director of presentabsence theatre. Thomas is a freelance Director and Writer as has worked alongside Birmingham REP, National Theatre and more on an array of productions. Thomas has recently been selected to join the Foundry collective at Birmingham REP. presentabsence theatre formed in 2016 and 2017 sees them staging physically-charged new piece NOISE at The Old Rep. We caught up with Tom to find out more…
Tell us a bit about NOISE and where the idea came from.
NOISE primarily stemmed from an encounter I had working as a Front of House Assistant. Whilst ushering, a large group of deaf patrons were visiting for an accessible performance and, lo and behold, they were approaching me. I froze. I didn’t know how to communicate with them, it felt alien to me and I felt like I was patronising them. What should have been a simple encounter became an awkward exchange of eye-dodging. Eventually, they managed to navigate their own way leaving me feeling frustrated. What was the issue? Was I the problem or were they? Why couldn’t we communicate? These questions, alongside many others whirring around my mind, led me to do some research. I wanted to learn British Sign Language (BSL) and I wanted to understand what the barriers of communication are and how we can overcome them.
What involvement have deaf artists had in shaping the piece and making it accessible?
Working on the (now Olivier-nominated) The Government Inspector with Ramps on the Moon and Birmingham REP gave me the honour of sharing the experience alongside a powerhouse cast of D/deaf, hearing, disabled and able-bodied 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. Around the same time, I was re-drafting NOISE and I shared the script with members of the cast, both hearing and D/deaf, to get their opinions and input to help create a realistic portrayal of D/deaf characters. From day one, I always knew I wanted this piece to be inclusive which is why all performances are going to be signed, captioned and audio described.
At its core, what is NOISE about?
The strongest themes are identity and acceptance. I hope NOISE encourages the audience to recognise the understanding the importance of love, kindness and togetherness in a time where division is rife.
What kind of voice do you feel the show gives to the young gay community?
The majority of the creative and production team who have seen this piece come to fruition are either gay, lesbian or bisexual, which is incredibly empowering as we bring together a collective voice to champion our community. Not only this, but the subject matter of NOISE represents the young gay community in a way which I feel isn’t often evident in many productions. It demonstrates how diversity enriches people. I hope NOISE, and other pieces like it, will encourage the next wave of LGBTQ+ artists to create work and share their voice with confidence and integrity.
As a young Birmingham-based theatre maker, how does it feel to be creating and premiering the show here in Birmingham at The Old Rep?
Overwhelming. I do that thing…the thing where you walk past a building and say to someone “One day, I want to have worked there.” I did this exact thing two years ago when the first lightbulb of an idea for NOISE entered my head. I have always felt that I want my work to be created and premièred in Birmingham as there is a real warmth and a sense of home within the city. 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 that I am still in amazement I will be able to cross off.
What are your plans for the show after the premiere in Birmingham?
The whole team behind the production are ready to see this two-year vision springboard into action and it is hoped that following its première in Birmingham, we will go on to tour NOISE nationally. But shh, it’s a secret...
Have you got any other plays in the pipeline that we should look out for?
I am currently working on a play very different to NOISE. In December 2016, in the rehearsal rooms at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, we had a week-long Research and Development period on blue moon which is loosely based on a true story about surveillance and how one could abuse its powers. It is still being re-drafted as we speak, but it is hoped that this will be a next project for presentabsence theatre.
And finally, why should people come and see NOISE?
NOISE is a heart-warming story of love and togetherness told through physically-charged drama. Expect pulsating beats, stark movement and a touching tale of young love and loss that celebrates everybody: their beauty, their flaws and the magic of diversity. If you care not for division but for individuality, NOISE is the exciting new piece of writing for you.
NOISE runs at The Old Rep Thursday 13 – Saturday 15 April. All performances are signed, captioned and audio described. For tickets and more information, visit oldreptheatre.co.uk