Ray Bradshaw: Deaf Comedy Fam

★★★
comedy review | Read in About 2 minutes
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Ray Bradshaw
Published 13 Aug 2017

Ray Bradshaw's show is performed entirely in British Sign Language and spoken English, in what is a Fringe first. His impetus for this is his status as a member of the signing community, having grown up with deaf parents. He rightly castigates the Fringe for its lack of sign-translated performances given that this denies large numbers of people access to culture. In this way the very act of doing a show in BSL is political and necessary.

But this is not a po-faced lecture. Instead he recounts how his sense of identity is informed by his upbringing in which he learnt BSL as his first language. His parents, understandably, loom large, and he rightly bemoans journalists who in interviews have tried to get him to express a regret he doesn't have about not growing up in a "normal" household. The very ordinary relatability of tales about sibling rivalry and trying to dupe parents is what matters here.

It's a shame, then, that the format doesn't quite work. Much of the spoken language in the show is delivered by tape, while Bradshaw is on stage signing. It's a neat conceit that renders speaking nothing other than voiceover, but it makes the whole thing rigid and unable to account for the live audience. For it's when Bradshaw interacts with the punters—a number of whom sign—that things come alive and he displays skill in working the room. Work needs to be done here on aligning concept with execution.