MADE IN INDIA / BRITAIN | London, Pleasance

This award-winning one-man show (2019) tells the rags-to-riches story of a second-generation British immigrant, with a difference: the whole show is told in British Sign Language (BSL). Growing up with limited means in Birmingham, Rinkoo Barpaga went on to find success as a BSL interpreter for BBC and MTV, and as an independent film-maker (including the acclaimed 2014 short film, Double Discrimination).

Barpaga’s life-story is compelling, packed with hilarious and dangerous anecdotes about the struggles of growing up Deaf in the eighties, and his difficulties within the intersection of being non-white and non-hearing. But performed live in Barpaga’s idiosyncratic style, it takes on a whole new level of meaning. To watch an entire show in BSL is a rarity, and Barpaga makes it a joy, even for those who don’t know BSL.

It’s also not technically a one-man show. At the start, Barpaga introduces Mathias André, who then sits down in front of a music stand in the corner, in order to read out loud the translation of Barpaga’s BSL performance. André is an adept narrator, and for audiences who don’t know BSL, this is our way of getting to understand the story. But there’s no doubt that the core of Barpaga’s performance is visual, and audiences who know BSL are likely to get the most out of this. (There are also captions available to view on your phone, for those who are hard of hearing and don’t understand BSL.)

Interestingly, the performance is enhanced by some choice moments of evocative music and sound design (Mark Fenton). It would be good to see some more creative decisions with the lighting (Tom Clutterbuck) in order to offer audience members with hard of hearing the same effect.

Rinkoo Barpaga is back on tour, 19 April – 11 October 2023.

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