Play 'Earwig' at the Lowry shows fight for deaf people to be heard in roaring 1920s

It is a fight to be heard for a leading expert in insects who is deaf in the roaring twenties.

A new play at The Lowry in Salford combines the weird, wonderful world of entomology with Marigold’s Webb's fight for recognition amidst flappers, jazz and an overbearing husband.

Earwig explores what it meant to be deaf in the early 20th century with some striking similarities that still exist today.

It was written and produced by Laura Crow, who lost 50% of her hearing aged just two as a result of meningitis.

Laura plays Marigold and uses her own experience to show the audience what it is like to be deaf in a hearing, often inaccessible world.

"The fact that she's a woman trying to make her way in a very male dominated scientific field of entomology, and is married to a very unpleasant man that belittles her throughout most of the play."

"I think she definitely shines a voice on the thousands of women who were unheard or didn’t really feel like they had many choices or options in their life but managed to create their own paths and do something quite unusual."

Laura herself grew up in the nineties and said BSL signing wasn't available to her and she was discouraged from even wearing hearing aids.

"I was told not to draw attention to the fact that I was deaf and because I was managing so well no one would need to know. So I was told, don't don't wear hearing aids.

On stage you see Marigold struggling to hear, with her husband turning away from her to speak.

The characters challenge what is like to be deaf in a hearing world in fast and frenetic performances Credit: Time & Again

Ben Hynes learnt some sign for the play but his 'overbearing character' often produces gasps in the audience.

He said: "Last week after one of our shows, there was an audience member who came up to me at the end and just looked at me and just went, No, no, I did not like you."

"Women weren't listened to. They were sidelined. They were thought of as a bit stupid, and they should just maintain in the house and it is time to speak up."

He also plays another far more likeable character, Marigold's best friend Dolly who is also deaf.

The play uses mime, BSL signing and a projector with captions on the stage, which becomes almost like a third character.

Matthew Eames, Head of Theatres at The Lowry says "nothing will ever be fully accessible to everybody. But we can do more."

Matthew said: "If a small Manchester based company, can use a number of techniques to support accessibility from the start, we can learn from that."

Manchester-based Time & Again was formed in the summer of 2017. They use history to highlight issues still relevant to the world today – often with a focus on mental health, disability, and chronic illness.

Laura Crow added: "If a very small company and very small show like us can build on things like integrated BSL captions projections, it's possible for everyone to do it and it should become standard throughout all theatre productions.

The play won an Offie Award at the Edinburgh fringe, with special recognition for Laura Crow's performance.

The reviews say Earwig is bold and funny, and also challenges society to do more.

"We went into Earwig wanting it to be accessible from the ground up, so although we’d never used projection in a show before, I wrote with it in mind and it's funny, adding to the performance". Laura said.

The show starts at The Lowry Theatre Aldridge studio on the 28th & 29th September at 8pm. Both performances are BSL interpreted and there is a livestream option available for the Friday 29th performance.

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