PhD student works with the Royal Shakespeare Company on their final project and takes their performance on tour

Professional photo of Tom Stevenson, who is wearing a navy, button-up shirt and smiling to the camera.

Normal is a semi-autobiographical piece, both written and performed by PhD student and recent MA Theatre graduate Tom Stevenson. Exploring notions of sexuality and Tom’s experiences as an openly gay man, the play is about an actor who since coming out is exclusively put forward to play gay characters by his agent.

Forming part of his final project, Tom used the opportunity to cultivate his experiences and generate a piece of original performance without restraints on his creativity. Although Tom has performed on stage for many years, as well as running Elemental Theatre Company, the only story he has never told is his own.

Tom explores the limitations of gender stereotypes and the impacts this has on the character's career (a response to Russell T Davis, Director of the Channel 4 show ‘It’s A Sin’, saying only gay men should play gay parts), alongside his experiences of performed sexuality.

As the character doesn’t outwardly express his sexuality, this leads him to become unsuccessful, but throughout the course of the play encounters other characters who attribute some of their success to their sexuality, and so he begins to learn more about himself.

When asked about how he feels putting on the performance, Tom said:

“Normal is my 3rd piece of original writing to be performed on stage, but it is my first ever monologue performance without a cast to support me, it is also the first show that Elemental Theatre Company is touring (instead of being housed in one venue), so I am excited about these 'first times’, but also terrified of how vulnerable I will be on stage, alone, telling my story.”

After seeing the final production of Normal, Tom was supported by academics on the MA Theatre programme who put him in contact with receiving house theatres. He has since worked with playwright, Andy Barrett who has helped Tom further develop his script, which has attracted interest from the Royal Shakespeare Company.

As 2023 will see the 400th anniversary since Shakespeare’s First Folio was published, the RSC has approached Tom and asked to workshop his performance for their upcoming 37 Plays national playwriting project, seeking the stories of our times to celebrate a new series of 37 brand new performances that reflect the world that we live in today.

Speaking of his major project and how the MA Theatre programme supported him, Tom explains that:

The MA not only unlocked the creativity inside of me and gave me a more advanced knowledge of storytelling and theatre in terms of writing and performance, but also helped me to understand the industry, the funding of projects, the nature of projects, where and how to get commissioned to write. The masters has been a lifesaver in showing me that becoming a writer/performer is an actual career path.”

Normal is performing at the following dates and locations:

24 February at The John Godber Centre, Nottingham
9 March at The Big Difference, Leicester
21 March at The Riverhead Theatre, Louth
20 and 21 April at The Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham 

Tickets can be purchased here, with more dates to be announced.