Review Made In (India) Britain, Rinkoo Barpaga by Kevin Johnson

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

“I was born brown, deaf and outside a prison…thanks Dad!” So begins this one-man show about a British-Indian, or Indian-Briton, or perhaps there’s even a third option.

Rinkoo Barpaga is a Sikh, born in Birmingham to parents from India, who’s been trying to find his ‘people’ all his life. Growing up during the Thatcher years, he experienced unemployment, prejudice and racism, all while observing the many ‘cultures’ he encountered. Learning sign language at a much older age than others left him feeling even more of an outsider, his first word, ‘dog’, was learnt from a friend in a car on the way to a special school. 

Bouncing between Birmingham, Newcastle & London, making friends while enduring double prejudice because he was deaf and brown, from hearing and (white) deaf alike, always wanting more than anything to understand and be understood. A career in entertainment was never his intention, falling into it by accident after becoming a translator for TV. Trying stand-up comedy both here and in America, he grew more accomplished, and started creating stage shows based on his life and travels. This being the latest result.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this play is that, unlike most others, instead of an interpreter for the deaf here we have an interpreter for the hearing. He becomes a sort of narrator in a way, speaking Rinkoo’s words in a voiceover to the acting, which gives us a fascinating insight into his world. Occasionally it misfires, the voice not always being synchronised to the signing, leading to the emotional impact being somewhat diluted. On the whole though, it adds a fresh new dimension to things.

In turns sad, joyous and painful, but always funny, Rinkoo passionately conveys the anger, fear and sheer frustration of his life due to his inability to communicate. The  irony is that it seems to be here on the stage that he communicates the best, offering us an insight into his world, a world I was almost completely unaware of. Both an entertaining and enlightening experience then, and one I truly enjoyed.

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