Noise ingeniously tells the story of a teenage boy – Evan – as he experiences life at university as a deaf boy. You are taken on his journey through love and acceptance away from home with another boy, Harry. This new work is pioneered by Present Absence Theatre and written by their Artistic Director Thomas Moran.
Moran’s writing handles comedy, grief and realism with ease and is a treat to watch. It is clear there is an abundance of artistic flexibility that this text allows for in its presentation to the stage and Moran is surrounded by a creative team that understands this play incredibly well. Katie Marie Holmes’ set design is clinical, clean cut and symbolic. With the front of the stage evoking a set of windows, the audience become the onlookers. The set allows for the characters to take centre stage, and futher impacts the clear video design of Oliver McMillan. Its approach mixes real artful projection with captioning for the production, which is a nice touch, allowing for complete design consistency across the departments. Additionally, Georgia Allen’s costume design stays true to the realism of Moran’s script.
It is the accessible theatre approach to this production that really sets this production as the most advanced the Old Rep has experienced. Having a BSL sign language interpreter side of stage incorporated with the action was also a nice touch, cleverly interacting speech, hearing, deaf, captioning and acting as one to create some rather stunning storytelling accessible for all.
Zak Macros’s lighting compliments Holmes’ set nicely and despite some dark moments as actors moved out of the light, this can be forgiven for an opening premier as performers get used to the staging. The clarity between the direction and lighting is also very clear in the latter of the show where the character of Harry (Dominic Holmes) has an asthma attack. Here the frantic nature of the design was clear and rather ingeniously told this attack with taste and sensitivity. This theme continues across the show as actors tackle Moran’s writing with sensitivity as to keep the intention of the play clear – awareness.
Moran’s cast is undeniably strong and the scope in which they opened the text up was a real delight to watch. Sophie Airdien (Rosie) and Katherine Rodden (Kate) become the voice of us, the audience. Along with Oliver Knight (Josh) they provide a voice that questions what is going on stage. Moran’s script allows for resonant questions of ‘Would you rather be deaf or blind?’ and ‘Can girls be gay or are they lesbians?’ to be spoken as the play is happening – this kind of subconscious interaction presents Moran’s awareness for the audience and this talent is what sets apart this up and coming contemporary writer from others.
Above this it is the pairing of Dominic Holmes’ hopeful and understanding Harry and Nicolas Ancelin (Evan) that is a real treat in this production. Together their character’s relationships are joyful and endearing, allowing for complete emotional distress of the audience towards the end of the play. Holmes’ Harry presents real questions about what you would do if your partner was deaf and the themes of the character resonate across the auditorium. Although trying to avoid giving away any of this stunning plot, it is important to recognize the control that Ancelin has over the audience’s emotional state at the latter of the play, and several tears are shed over the heart-rendering hope that Evan experiences. It is amazing and you mustn’t miss it.
Moran’s play strikes a chord with audiences that recognizes the importance of not only accessible theatre but also theatre that places LGBTQ+ at the heart of its storytelling. I am excited to see what the future holds for this play, but one thing is clear…the world needs more theatre like this and it was a pleasure to see the world premier this evening.
#MakeSomeNoise at the Old Rep Theatre this week.
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