Pleasance Courtyard (Two), Edinburgh – until 29 August 2022
Guest reviewer: Rachel Farrier
Rinkoo Barpaga has created a fascinating and unsettling show in Made in India/Britain. An honest and clear-eyed exploration of his own experiences and reactions to navigating life as a deaf person of Indian heritage in modern Britain, it did that rare and precious thing of opening my eyes to a world of which I knew very little.
He performs the entire show in British Sign Language, with the script also voiced by another performer on the edge of the stage. The physicality of the performance is engaging from the start and Barpaga takes us on his life journey from his upbringing in a hearing family Birmingham to an adulthood where he has moved around and travelled for work, with success and heartbreaking suffering along the way.
The discrimination and abuse that Barpaga has encountered both from the white and deaf communities are as shocking as they are depressing, and the confusion and anger with which he meets this is conveyed brilliantly. He describes the tension and confusion he feels when travelling to visit family in India and hearing about atrocities perpetrated by the British, because he is British. But also, surrounded by his Indian family, Indian.
Despite these serious and important reflections on clearly painful experiences, there is plenty of humour in the show, and there are hopeful moments where Barpaga describes ‘finding his tribe’ (when he meets other deaf children and the wider deaf community) and times where he has found acceptance in unlikely places.
I went along to this show with a hearing friend who also knows British Sign Language and she mentioned that the pacing was at times jarring as the speaking narrator was ahead of Barpaga in the script. However, we both found this to be a compelling, entertaining and thought-provoking show and left with huge admiration for Barpaga’s tenacity and courage, as well as the beautiful way in which he told a challenging story.