Rinkoo ‘Roo’ Barpaga is Deaf, and his life is still awash with noise. It’s represented in the lighting – blinding in nature and often disorientating for Rinkoo to come to terms with. It represents the flooding of information about sign language, the Deaf community, racism, mental health and more. All of which, as a Brummie with Indian heritage, leads him to question who he is exactly, and where exactly does he belong.
He’s joined on-stage by Mathias André, who provides the voiceover for Barpaga’s rich and poetic performance, delivered in British Sign Language (BSL). He is, at times, a fair bit ahead of his signing counterpart, but otherwise it adds a new layer of emotion to Roo’s expressions. Equally impressive is the ability for individual audience members to access captions – by Ben Glover – on their smartphones. It certainly helps to make Rinkoo’s story all the more engaging.
Not that it isn’t already. Made In India/Britain is one of the most accurate portrayals I’ve ever seen of just how it feels to discover your community, and the journey which follows. For Rinkoo, it begins in a taxi from school, where two other children are signing to themselves. The different cultures both blend together and challenge each other in the most fascinating fashion, in a way which further conveys the problem.
Britain and its Deaf community has an issue with racism – quite the understatement, I’ll grant you – while India has its history shaped by British colonialism. Even in the world of TV, Roo’s Black BSL is at times erased, and the representation of Black and Indian individuals on-screen ranges from the stereotypical doctor to the Olympics and The A-Team’s Mr T.
It’s a fight to live and see oneself represented authentically, but it’s one Rinkoo rightly argues Deaf and disabled people shouldn’t have to face on a regular basis, and it’s also one we don’t always win.
As such, Made in India/Britain doesn’t ever make a clear, definitive choice between the two, but it’s much better like that. It’s raw, it’s emotive, and it’s enthralling.
Made In India/Britain is now playing at the Pleasance Courtyard, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2022, until 29 August.
Production Images: Graeme Braidwood Photography.