Jo Milne has become used to being called ‘inspirational’.
Since a video showing the 40-year-old hearing for the first time went viral last year, Jo, who has Usher’s Syndrome which effects both hearing and vision, has shared her story many times via newspaper, magazine, TV and radio interviews.
She’s even written an autobiography, Breaking the Silence, released earlier this year in which she describes her life before the cochlear implant surgery that allowed her to hear for the first time, while coming to terms with losing her sight.
All that said, Jo, from Gateshead, says she never expected to inspire a play. But she has done.
Later this month, her words will be heard on stage when Everything is Wondrous, a play based on her experiences, will be premiered at Live Theatre in Newcastle.
“I couldn’t believe it and I felt very humbled that the story was going to be performed here,” said Jo during a visit to the theatre yesterday with Tremayne Crossley, the friend who was tasked with creating a mix tape of music he thought she should hear as soon as she was able.
“Being from the North East, I’ve always known about Live Theatre and been to see things here over the years,” Jo added. “I never dreamed people would be coming to see a production about me. It’s strange to think that is what’s happening, but then again everything that has happened since the video went on YouTube has been pretty unbelievable.”
The play has been written by Amy Golding, and is a verbatim piece based on interviews with both Jo and Tremayne, who made the compilation using a song from every year of Jo’s life.
“There was massive pressure,” laughed Tremayne, a self-confessed ‘music nerd’. “Being responsible for the first music someone is going to hear is scary. I had a blank piece of paper for a long time. It was very much like ‘where do you start?’.”
After making his final selections, which included John Lennon’s Imagine, When Doves Cry by Prince, Common People by Pulp and One Day Like This by Elbow, Tremayne shared them with Sunderland BBC6 Music DJ, Lauren Laverne, who played them - and told their accompanying story during the Memory Tapes segment of her show.
Playwright and theatre director Amy was listening.
She said: “I heard that show and it was so emotional. The play came from a conversation with Gez (Casey, Live’s literary manager) much later. He’d also heard the programme and we were both really moved by it.
“I’ve been really interested in music and what it means to people in their lives and the memories which are connected to music, and I thought Jo would have such a unique perspective.
“We tweeted Jo and Tremayne because we didn’t know how to get hold of them, which was a bit of a long shot. But they tweeted back and agreed to come down to Live and meet us, which was great.
“It was really lovely meeting them and finding out about their friendship. I think people will enjoy hearing more about it in the play.”
Everything is Wondrous will be one of five short pieces performed as part of Rendezvous, a series of plays commissioned and performed to mark 10 years since the death of much-loved writer - and former writer in residence at Live - Julia Darling. The plays will be performed together from May 28 until June 6. For more information and to book tickets, visit www.live.org.uk