Attending the compelling production of “Made in India Britain” at the Soho Theatre was a touching and (at times) emotionally challenging experience. It delved deep into the complexities of identity, ableism, and racism. It was evident that this show’s aim was no easy feat, ambitiously tackling a multitude of themes while artfully presenting a life story that resonates with audiences in just 65 minutes. What I ended up seeing was a small solo show that packed a punch.
Rinkoo Barpaga, the actor who breathed life into the main character, Roo, seamlessly traversed through time with the swiftness of tearing calendar pages, expertly guiding the audience through the pivotal moments of Roo’s life.
The narrative journey commenced with Roo’s literal beginning on a rainy day, being born in a hospital adjacent to a prison — an intriguing combination, to say the least. As if this unique circumstance wasn’t enough, Roo entered the world with a hearing impairment. During this introductory scene, it was already evident that Barpaga possesses a remarkable talent for humour, effortlessly infusing the performance with laughter.
Comedy, an inherently challenging craft, took on an additional layer of complexity in this production. As I followed the show using voice translation, I couldn’t help but admire the interpreter’s fabulous work.
Translating a joke is one thing, but ensuring that the intonation and words accurately convey the original actor’s message requires tremendous skill and attention to detail.
The interpreter’s contribution was commendable, adding an extra layer of depth to the already captivating performance.
Roo, with his engaging and light-hearted style of storytelling, took the audience on a journey through various school experiences, addressing the harsh realities of bullying and even demonstrating his resilience, drawing inspiration from none other than the iconic Mr T. Yet, amid the anecdotes, the show did not shy away from the painful and bewildering street racism Roo encountered in Birmingham.
One of the most emotionally charged moments of the show was when Roo embarked on a visit to India, his family’s homeland. That’s where he discovered painful pages of Indian history, that are not even mentioned in schools. It evoked a soul-stirring reaction that could detach anyone’s spirit from their body. Through Barpaga’s masterful performance, the audience was transported to that moment of revelation, keenly feeling the weight of this profound realisation. It was highlighted by a slow-motion moment in a spotlight – usually, I would say, a little bit too much, but here it somehow felt justified.
The physicality of the performance added an extra layer of dynamism to the storytelling. Certain motion sequences were flawlessly executed in the spotlight, accompanied by well-timed sound effects. However, there were moments where the inclusion of a stronger bass or floor vibrations in the sound design could have further enhanced the audience’s connection to the narrative. I recall witnessing such an effective technique in a previous production of “Everyday” at the New Diorama Theatre, and it would have been an exquisite addition to this already captivating show.
“Made in India Britain” is a thought-provoking production that skilfully weaves together a range of social issues into a cohesive and powerful narrative. Rinkoo Barpaga’s comedic talent shines brightly throughout the performance, breathing life into Roo’s story and leaving the audience simultaneously entertained and moved.
The inclusion of BSL and spoken English ensures accessibility for all, fostering an inclusive and welcoming environment for theatregoers.
The production showcases the power of accessible storytelling and the ability of theatre to shed light on stories that usually stay hidden. It’s such a conversation starter – the moment when the lights went down, I felt the urge to find out more about the topics of the UK education system for the hearing impaired, and the progress that (hopefully) already happened in the local social clubs and football teams. I love it when a show makes me want to do full research on the topic on my tube ride home!
About the show:
All performances will be in BSL, Spoken English and Closed Captions
Presented by Rinkoo Barpaga
Director of Original Production Daniel Bailey, Director Tyrone Huggins
Running time: 60mins (no interval)
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