Blind actor and TikTok sensation set to take centre stage for the first time at Edinburgh Fringe
"Take The Bins Out" follows the journey of character, Finley Whitmore whose sight loss diagnosis turns his world upside down, and by coming to terms with the implications of that diagnosis, gains insight into himself and every relationship in his life.
Portraying Finley is Bristol actor Milo Mooney (25), who has amassed a following of over 330,000 people and 14 million views of his light-hearted comedy and storytelling on TikTok.
Milo was born with cataracts in both eyes. During an operation to have the cataract in his left eye removed, surgical complications ensued, leaving Milo with no vision in his left eye, and with the life-threatening infection, sepsis. When he was 18 years old, Milo had his left eye surgically removed and now has a prosthetic eye - a topic of many of his TikTok videos.
Speaking about the Fringe show, Milo says:
“One thing I really like about this play is that Finley's story is universal. That Finley's journey starts with his sight loss diagnosis is one thing, but a man learning to ‘see himself’ for the first time is universal, just in this case, it happens to be after he realises he's going blind.
“A unique point of this show is that I'm alone onstage, and all the other characters are pre-recorded voices. This was an artistic choice that was made to help the audience experience the world, the way Finley does- primarily through sound.”
“Even though Finley has a different sight condition - Retinitis Pigmentosa - from me, there was so much in the script I could relate to, and I know many people with that condition and have seen how it affects their daily life. I was able to incorporate a lot of that into my performance. Despite the subject matter, the show has a lot of humour and provides a view on a segment of humanity that doesn't often get a spotlight.”
And how has TikTok played into Milo’s journey?
“I have a background in stand-up comedy and acting but TikTok has been a springboard for many aspects of my career. One of my life and career goals is to be so well-known that I, as a person with a visible disability, can play an abled-bodied character, without comment or interest in my visual impairment.
“TikTok has been a platform that I can easily express myself and get an immediate audience just by clicking the upload button. I feel the algorithms of TikTok, while useful, limit somewhat artistic expression as the algorithm tends to want you to repeat your ‘greatest hits’. While I love entertaining my audience on TikTok, I want to continue to grow as an artist and comedian, and that means that the content has to grow as well.
“I want to show the world that there is no limit to what a person with a visual impairment can achieve, if they're willing to do the work.”
Premiering for the first time in August, ‘Take The Bins Out’ has been nominated for a 2023 BBC Writers Room/Popcorn Writing award. The show’s director and writer, Mark Janicello adds,
“The original idea of the play was not about sight loss, but it has developed during the course of writing it, to make a universal story about a person's journey to acceptance and enlightenment.
“I did a tremendous amount of research on Retinitis Pigmentosa. I spoke with the RNIB, I did medical research, and then I went about learning how a visually-impaired person navigates their day-to-day life. But if an audience wants to find out about a medical condition, they'd be better off watching a documentary than a play. This play had to ‘humanize’ a condition, and so while it deals with Finley's medical condition, it is really about the effect of his diagnosis on his emotional life.
“When looking for the lead actor, I wanted someone with tremendous personal charisma, and real acting ability to bring Finley to life. We approached every actor with sight loss in the UK within the age range, to ask them to audition, and we narrowed it down to Milo.
“Honestly, I had no idea about his TikTok channel when I hired him. I found out about that months later! I hired him because I felt he was the best actor for this job, and every day in rehearsal, I am proven right. He is not only a hard worker and very disciplined in his approach, he is exceptionally talented.
“Although directing a production with an actor with sight loss has a different, new set of challenges for me, Milo is an actor like every other actor, and we have had a wonderful time creating the universe of Finley Whitmore together.”