From up-and-coming Midlands writer and director Thomas Moran and his company presentabsence Theatre comes “a new LGBTQ+ and deaf play.” NOISE follows the lives of five first-year university students in their shared flat, in particular Evan (Nicolas Ancelin) who is deaf. The play sees the development of Evan’s relationship with flatmate Harry (Dominic Holmes) and how they both deal with his impairment.
Despite their young ages and small number, the cast light up the stage of The Old REP, bringing energy and authenticity to their characters. The group work well as an ensemble, being totally believable as housemates and friends, but this is perhaps better shown through the several examples of physical theatre and montages in which all of the cast have co-ordinated their movements to fit with one another, avoiding any slip-ups (not an easy task on The Old REP’s small stage) whilst still managing to create dynamic sequences.
Sporting genuinely witty and funny lines, the script never feels cliché in a way that is often present in ‘writing for the youth’ (likely helped by the fact that Moran is only 21 himself). We are spared the lazy tropes that may come with writing stories about characters of minorities – these characters are not defined by their disabilities or sexuality or any other factors and this humanity is what makes both the play’s heart-warming and heart-breaking moments so impactful.
The set and props were imaginatively used, featuring in many of the physical sequences and assisting in the creation of the imagery of some scenes. However, the true technical highlight of the production was its incredible use of sound. Given its subject, a lot of emphasis is put on what the audience can hear and the sheer amount of sound and music serves as a contrast to Evan’s lack of hearing. In the opening five minutes there is no dialogue and very little movement as a character lays on a table, only changing their position to sit up or check their phone. This is accompanied only by distorted sound effects such as low drones and muffled voices and yet still manages to hold the attention of the audience completely.
One of NOISE’s biggest strengths (and certainly one of its most unique qualities) is the way it combines its features of accessibility for the hearing impaired with the use of a live BSL interpreter and projected subtitles and gives them purpose within the narrative. Rather than distracting from the performances, they actually added to them, further re-enforcing one of the main themes of the piece, and allowing the production to continue exploring through more theatrical devices.
Ultimately, NOISE is about relationships and the barriers that can come between them. Its themes are beautifully explored through a variety of techniques, all of which come together to make a piece of theatre that is as creative as it is moving.
NOISE is showing at The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham until 15th April. Information about booking and tickets can be found here.
Review by Liam Tipper on behalf of Suzie Speaks
Image taken from The Old Rep website.