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  • Nikita Ved

Review - Made in (India) Britain

Pleasance Theatre

Writer and British Sign Language

Rinkoo Barpaga

Spoken English

Mathias Andre

Review {Gifted - PR invite}

This play by Rinkoo Barparga follows Rinkoo through his life growing up in Birmingham in the 80’s and 90’s as a deaf Panjabi. Exploring the impacts of ableism through the lens of a young boy discouraged from using sign language, the play is deepened by its discussion of racism, mental health, and inequalities. The play broaches these tough subjects whilst deftly navigating adolescence, finding one’s tribe, and ultimately, one’s self.

This one-man show, voiced by Mathias Andre, employs a meta-theatrical narrator to guide us through the story. Almost entirely in BSL, Rinkoo displays an immense likeability and by keeping a stripped-back stage, ensures that the audience is kept in the palm of his hand.

Discrimination and pain are interwoven in the play and the script pulls no punches. Rinkoo addresses the ‘double-discrimination’ he experienced from the white, deaf community and how the place where he felt most free was ‘back home’ in India, a place where people’s wild gesticulations communicate almost as well as BSL. He tells tales of riding a motorcycle without any lessons, running around with his cousins, and being surrounded by interesting characters. You’d think that back in India, Rinkoo would be safe from worrying about discrimination and violence. You’d be wrong. Rinkoo retells an encounter with ‘Sikh rebels’ that murdered a family for being Hindu and talks about the history of the horrific Jallianwala Bagh massacre by the British.

Rinkoo recalls his interesting career spanning Football commentary, urban music television, filmmaking, and the hurdles he had to overcome to reach these heights. His TV career came crashing down following the 2008 financial crisis and spoke of how the disabled community are always the first casualties in any employee cuts, something that we can see mirrored in today’s cost-of-living crisis.

The staging of the play is sparse, with only a chair as a prop. Rinkoo does the rest. His great physicality and storytelling eschews the need for complex staging and leaves the rest to your imagination. His movement here, and throughout the entire piece, always establishes a world revolving in constant motion, often leaving the deaf community behind.

Made in India Britain is an important play that looks at the intersection of disability, race, class, and the desire to live a life beyond the constraints being put on you.

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