Made in India Britain:  Lost Found in translation.

Made in India Britain is an autobiographical one man show following the story of Rinkoo Barpaga, through anecdotal story telling from his younger self. Roo is a deaf Punjabi boy from Birmingham, immediately plunged into a world that wasn’t made for him. He explores the impact of ableism and racism throughout his childhood, and how that has seeped into his adult life. Roo grapples with his sense of identity and the communities around him. This leads him to confront one key question: “Where do I belong?”

Come and be immersed in Roo’s world as he goes on a journey through the years of self-discovery and personal reflection.

This performance is delivered in BSL by Rinkoo Barpaga, with spoken word English translation by Mathias Andre and captions.

Rinkoo Barpaga is an actor, theatre maker, comedian, presenter and (decaf) green tea enthusiast. A self-described Jack of all trades, In his first show “Am I funny” he touched on the Asian British community in Birmingham. Through this he realised that audiences weren’t exposed to stories and experiences from that community. There was a gap in the market and an appetite for more. British Asian deaf voices have little representation in the media, thus Made in India Britain was created. Rinkoo created the first iteration of the show four years ago .

group photo
Week 1 Studio Team, Daniel Bailey, Laura Walker, Rinkoo Barpaga, Olivier Whitter, Tyron Huggens, Selina Jacques

This was directed by dramaturge Daniel Bailey and voiced over by Kam Deo. Rinkoo’s desire to revisit this piece came from his experiences in lockdown. After months of introspection he wanted to revisit the show in a way that focused more on storytelling opposed to a singular linear narrative. The goal was to have two faucets of performance: monologue and physical theatre. It’s safe to say he was beyond successful with both of them.

Director, Tyrone Huggins chose to pick up this script as he was intrigued to encounter the challenges of working with an performer who primarily used a different language. Huggins saw it as an adventure. He said that he saw the prospect of the show as frightening and often finds himself attracted to things in theatre that scare him. Maybe not so much in real life though. Not speaking the language of someone else didn’t pose that much of an issue when the language of theatre was universal.

Rinkoo wanted to explore how much the barriers could be broken down between himself – the performer – and the audience.  The answer was quite a lot actually. Rinkoo and Tyrone decided to include the use of breaking the fourth wall to submerge audiences into his reality and past experiences. This resulted in theatre that you can’t turn away from. A moment that draws you in.

From the get go it was made clear to Rinkoo and everyone involved that this piece was influenced by and based on trauma. There are topics and themes that aren’t necessarily easy to digest. From racial prejudice to drug addiction to ableism this piece of work succeeds in unpacking topics, that are typically deemed as taboo and untouchable. Wellbeing practitioner Nigel Bailey was part of the project to ensure that everyone felt seen and heard when it came to how the topics of the show might impact them. For Rinkoo in particular, it was important that he was able to be in touch with his emotions surrounding the show. This was to ensure that he wasn’t pushing himself to far physically or emotionally. Often in theatre (and generally in the arts world) wellbeing is something that is overlooked and not prioritised. Bailey being part of the production of the show was essential for everyone involved. When talking about traumatic events that have happened in the past especially as a minority it can be easy to get lost in them and forget to focus on the positives. This piece manages to piece together hard hitting topics with humour and moments of radical joy. It takes a deep dive into Rinkoo’s intersectionality’s. How the different aspects of his identity as a minority interact and wrestle with each other. Furthermore the show touches on social and cultural contexts that influenced how Rinkoo interacted with the world and vice a versa. It can’t be ignored that being deaf and brown in the 80s is a different experience to how it is in 2022.

The process of creating the show was as nostalgic as it was cathartic. The references throughout MIB to 80s culture manage to contextualise the piece and add comic relief.  In rehearsal there was something gentle and wholesome about seeing people bond over their favourite 80s show or reminiscing over floppy discs. The topics explored in the show began to trickle into lunch breaks and “Take 5’s.” In a way that was equal parts inevitable and thought provoking. With most of the crew involved being people of colour conversations arose around racism, prejudice and privilege. It was interesting and refreshing seeing the white people in the room listening to voices of colour and acknowledging their privilege. Rinkoo not only achieved a captivating show but his impact extended to of the stage. If that’s not a sign of a successful piece of art I’m really not sure what is.

A misconception about accessible shows is that having a BSL interpreter or captions are the perfect solution. Rinkoo pointed out that for him personally watching a show with a BSL interpreter was not always effective in translating story telling. At the end of the day the interpreter is portraying the story in the way that they perceive it. This doesn’t always capture the true essence or intention of a performance. Captions can be useful but if you aren’t sat in the right place, their use can be limited. Plus they’re often far behind what’s actually happening on stage. Due to this, Rinkoo Purposefully wanted his show to have integrated BSL along with Visual Vernacular (VV.)

VV is a more poetic theatrical way of signing which focuses on the beauty of the visuals of signing. This sets the pace of the show with hearing and deaf audiences alike being able to experience the show at the same time. It was important to Rinkoo that his first language (BSL) could be used as the main vehicle for audiences to experience his journey through life. Furthermore it was important for Rinkoo for a couple lines in the show to be spoken by him. His goal was not to translate his story but to perform it.

Rinkoo Barpaga and Mathias Andre

This of course didn’t come without its challenges. For Rinkoo he was working with an English based script, having to translate that into BSL alongside taking SSE (sign supported English) and VV into account. It was also important to Rinkoo that there was Urban sign language included in the piece. As a nod to the black and brown deaf community that cultivated his ability to sign, and contributed to his formative years as a young deaf brown man. He was working with a voice actor and director who didn’t speak BSL, which meant that he had to have two interpreters translating pretty much at all times. It was educational for everyone involved.  Quite honestly it was rather beautiful seeing everyone be patient with each other when it came to their respective languages. Hearing members of the crew eager to pick up bits of BSL. Made in India/Britain now only proved itself to be a great show but it also brought people together.

As time went on it became clear that Mathias Andre (voice actor) and Rinkoo didn’t need to perform like they were duplicates of each other. Code switching is something that Matias touched on in rehearsals. How often black people feel like they have to speak a certain way to be taken seriously or seen as professional. With this script it was apparent that it wasn’t something he wanted to do with Made in India Britain. As Mathias became more confident and familiar with the script he was able to inject his own personality and slang into it. The whole piece focuses on expression and that being done in an authentic way. So it made sense that this applied to Mathias as well as Rinkoo. It was inspiring watching Rinkoo and Mathias not only find their own voices separately but together too. Although Mathias doesn’t speak BSL his attentiveness to Rinkoo’s cues led to a gorgeously fluid performance.

Kam Deo, Rinkoo Barpaga

In the final week of rehearsals Kam Deo the voice actor in the first iteration of the show came in as a consultant. Kam speaks and teaches BSL and made it clear to Rinkoo that his focus shouldn’t be on the hearing audience, but on him conveying his story with the languages that he grew up with. It felt rather magical witnessing Rinkoo have this realisation and properly hone into his skillset as an performer, artist and storyteller.

When asked about how he got into theatre Rinkoo said that it’s something that he had been interested in but didn’t think there was room for someone like him. From performers to audience members alike he didn’t see representation for his community, whether that be deaf or brown. There is still a long way to go with visibility and representation in the arts industry but shows like Made in Britain India showcase talent from communities that have been silenced and muffled for decades. Rinkoo’s goal with the piece is to show own and/or deaf artists that there is room for them in this industry and their stories deserve as much attention as anyone else.

In a month Rinkoo and his team were able to make a show that reaches a beautiful blend of comedy and tension. Audiences are able to grow up with Roo in an intimately curated setting, as he answers the question “Where do I belong” and discovers parts of himself in translation.

This show could not have been made possible without; Pleasance theatre awarding Rinkoo Barpaga a Generate award, Deaf explorer supporting Rinkoo Barpaga throughout the process, Arts Council England awarding an R&D grant, stage manager Laura Walker, sound designer Mark Fenton and interpreters Selia Jacques and Olivia Whitter, Kam Deo BSL Consultant.