India Britain by Rinkoo Barpaga.
Background information on the making of a monologue by Deaf Theatre maker Rinkoo Barpaga, that aims to tour in Autumn 2020 Spring 2021. The performance will be presented at CARAVAN International showcase at Brighton Festival in May 2020.
Principal use of Arts Council England grant was to provide Rinkoo Barpaga with funds for his access, so he could participate on The Birmingham REP’s Foundry for emerging theatre makers in the West Midlands equally with hearing peers who have higher education qualifications and theatre training. Rinkoo set out to tell the story of South Asian Deaf living in Britain. He has done this with his new play. He has created a monologue. The title “Made in
India Britain” The play lasts 1 hour 10 minutes. The play was directed by Daniel Bailey, who is now Associate Director of Bush Theatre London. Rinkoo was mentored by playwright Andrew Muir. The play was written using a process that involved Writer Andrew Muir and Director Daniel Bailey. Andrew guided Rinkoo to tell his story. Rinkoo told him his story in his first language of BSL. Using a BSL interpreter to translate Rinkoo’s BSL Andrew noted down Rinkoo’s words. Andrew has worked for many years with Deaf creatives that use BSL. Andrew Muir can use BSL and communicate socially with Rinkoo. Andrew typed up Rinkoo’s stories. He sent them by email to Rinkoo and Rinkoo commented and made changes. This process was done between late July, August, September, October, November 2018. In September Andrew and Rinkoo spent a week in Leicester at Attenborough Arts Centre combining the written text with BSL performance. Before this intensive week of work, Andrew Muir and Daniel Bailey concluded that the play should return to the first language of BSL so that Rinkoo can perform the play. The rehearsal in Birmingham in October was completed with BSL interpreter Kam Deo who provided voice over for Rinkoo Barpaga. The rehearsal process was about translation from written English back into BSL and dynamic performance of Rinkoo Barpaga’s story. Daniel Bailey focussed on cutting down the story to create a story arc. The play was presented at the Birmingham REP in November as part of the Foundry Festival for New emerging theatre-makers in the West Midlands. Later in the month of November Rinkoo presented a shorter version of the play at Birmingham’s Deaf Cultural Centre to a Deaf audience with a BAME majority audience. Many in the audience were aged between 16 – 25. Feedback from the diverse Deaf audience was excellent. Rinkoo was ill after these two performances so he cancelled the shows he planned at Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester and STUN at Z-Arts in Manchester. In March 2019, Rinkoo presented the play at Camden Peoples Theatre for the Sprint Festival, 90% of the tickets sold and the performance received excellent feedback from Deaf Audiences. Rinkoo Barpaga visited Deaf families and communities in India. Rinkoo identified a South Asian promoter in Birmingham and a South Asian promotor in Leicester. The promotors organised gatherings of the academic and artistic Sikh, Indian and Pakistani community. Rinkoo told his deaf story at the gatherings and shared food and stories with people who attended the meetings. The research focused on intersectionality: Deaf and Indian, Learning British Sign Language and going to a Deaf school and College, Rinkoo’s relationship with his father, living in different parts of Britain & travelling around the world searching for a home.
Audience Feedback describes Rinkoo’s achievement “Rinkoo told his story with an engaging mix of humour, characterisation & first-person narrative. Really Effective, Really Enjoyable.” The project focussed on R&D and Professional development. The aim was to provide Culturally Deaf artist Rinkoo Barpaga, who uses British Sign Language the opportunity to write his own play. In 2017, Rinkoo made “Am I funny” The life and signs of a Deaf comedian” Rinkoo worked with a number of hearing playwrights, and felt he did not have ownership of the creative process. In this project, Rinkoo wanted to tell a contemporary urban Deaf story. Audience feedback said “Like the representation of deaf different background experience in Uk” Rinkoo was mentored by playwright Andrew Muir. Andrew’s process is to ask emerging writers real life questions, Rinkoo found the questions unexpected. The result of this process was many stories, and lots of material for the rehearsal studio. Two questions came out of the research: 1)Who am I, 2)Where do I belong. The questions also overlapped. Using this research Rinkoo went into the “Rehearsal process”, to find and make the play, this was a new and demanding experience for Rinkoo Barpaga. His artistic and access team of Interpreters acted as critical friends continually challenging Rinkoo so he could find the play, Made in India Britain amongst many other stories Rinkoo wanted to tell. In preparation he devised scenes that would entertain his audience. He saw these scenes as distinct and not part of a whole play. He created dynamic scenes with vibrant characters, he used his process for making Stand up comedy. When Rinkoo worked in the rehearsal studio with Director Daniel Bailey this process was critiqued and Daniel Bailey cut out scenes that did not answer the two questions. Rinkoo learnt that making theatre was not the same as making stand up comedy. He learnt when to use his stand up comedy skills when making theatre. Audience Feedback said, “Love how you add humour into sad story” He learnt about making theatre with a story arc. This feedback from audience captures Rinkoo’s learning on this project that transformed Rinkoo from Stand Up comedian to emerging playwright. “It is visual – flowed from one story to the next. You had a theme running through that linked your experiences” Later in the Rehearsal process Director Daniel Bailey moved towards one question to give the play greater focus for the audience. Rinkoo learnt that a scene that made people laugh or that was emotionally poignant could be cut if it did not have a connection or answer the question. By using the subject of himself to write a coherent play Rinkoo learnt an entirely new creative process. Daniel Bailey said that if Rinkoo wants to perform one-man show he has to stick with one interpreter for voiceover throughout rehearsal also on the stage. The creative process is so much about the language – BSL & urban sign language, it is this language that is celebrated and represented in front of audiences. Rinkoo learnt his theatre making process is not about aping English script writers, but involving a creative team that includes experienced access workers. Rinkoo says, “I have learnt so much throughout a year for the develop script and rehearsal.”
On the first day of the Studio Development that would transform Rinkoo Barpaga’s script into a piece of theatre Daniel Bailey said, “You are now going to make work for an historically under represented audience, you are the person with the lived experience to do this” The rigorous critique by Daniel Bailey challenged Rinkoo Barpaga, leading the Deaf artist to depend less on the support of note taker Andrew Muir & drive forward the creation of Rinkoo Barpaga’s BSL script rather than dependency on English script. Daniel recognised the importance of Rinkoo Barpaga’s first language to be central to the creative process as well as the acting of Rinkoo Barpaga. The research period was prolific with Rinkoo mining his past experiences, especially the memories of discrimination and the impact on Rinkoo Barpaga’s psyche. It’s a Deaf story about double discrimination that needed to be told. The 1 to 1 support that Daniel Bailey gave to Rinkoo Barpaga enabled Rinkoo to learn about making theatre. Rinkoo tells one story, & delivers one play for audiences. This ground breaking for Rinkoo who writes stand up comedy for instant reactions from the audience. The difference in opinion about editing scenes continued right up until the presentation of the work to audiences at Foundry Festival. Rinkoo found great learning in the editing process, because it greatly challenged how he had made work for audiences before.
The vital interplay & exchange of ideas between Daniel Bailey and Rinkoo Barpaga was mediated by RSLI Rachael Veazey, who because of her theatre making background & training could deliver Daniel Baileys communication to Rinkoo with knowledge and expertise. In her role as Interpreter she emerged out of the studio process as a creative enabler. RSLI Rachael Veazey mediates Rinkoo’s BSL communication with hearing professionals using the hybrid skills of theatre-making and BSL Interpreter. Before going into the studio with Daniel Bailey Rinkoo would work for days on the project with RSLI Rachael Veazey. Rachael used the time to reinforce Daniel’s communications and give Rinkoo greater opportunity to professionally develop his practice. The involvement of creative enabler Rachael Veazey was approved by Daniel Bailey. Also regular planning meetings with Deaf Explorer (with phone calls using Interpreter) enabled Rinkoo to successfully manage the project. Rachael along with RSLI Kam Deo who provided voice over for Rinkoo Barpaga became essential to the process because they were part of Rinkoo’s access team. Having said that it’s much more than access and both roles would be difficult, if not impossible to duplicate. Right now using his access team Rinkoo Barpaga is accelerating his creative output, making the foundations of cutting edge new work that puts his original voice on the stage. eg Chocolate (First Bite, Camden Peoples Theatre) & Bubble & Butch (DYCP & Birmingham REP). Rinkoo presented a talk about Deaf Access at IETM, Italy in May 2020. In the arts he is nurturing an ever increasing circle of support that want him to get to the next level. All this activity is due to funding from Arts Council England that in turn releases Access to Work funding to pay for BSL Interpreters.
Contact if you would are interested to find out more.
1 hour 10 min Video of performance, Script, Tour pack available.
Photos Graeme Braidwood