Ray Bradshaw boasts of being the first comic ever to have performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in both English and British Sign Language, and after seeing this hour show it’s a calamity it’s not been done before. Captivating, funny and sharply executed,
Bradshaw’s show is a winning combination of substance and humour, without sacrificing one for the other.
The comic begins by signing, absent of a voiceover or subtitles, while the audience politely wait in silence. The result — a dramatic and effective introduction into how it must feel to not be a hearing person. Dissecting the show into three parts, the first section sees Bradshaw sign to a voiceover as he regales nostalgic tales of childhood and the quirks of being born to deaf parents — from his dad farting in public to being responsible for household affairs at eight-years-old. Bradshaw delivers these stories with both confidence and flare — proof that he’s a natural storyteller.
Of course it’s no wonder Bradshaw can command an audience. He’s acted as his parents’ interpreter – the technical term is a coder – since he’s been old enough to talk. His second section uses a video of Bradshaw signing while addressing some of the common questions he’s asked about deaf people including, “what happens when deaf people get drunk”. Undoubtedly my favourite bits of the set are those where he’s used BSL for bad, including lying on parents’ evening, getting out of a speeding ticket and convincing his dad that his nipples makes strange noises. There is also a brilliant, and factually correct, bit about BSL and racism and which racist signs were changed... and which were not.
The final section is where Bradshaw’s brilliance truly comes to the fore, and the show picks up pace. Signing and speaking simultaneously he transports himself back to his graduation, a day his dad couldn’t understand, before ending with a brilliantly-timed callback to his dad’s love of farting.
Bradshaw’s show is a winning combination of substance and humour, without sacrificing one for the other. I went away having both belly-laughed and learned — from the fact BSL was only made a recognised language in 2003 to the four signs his girlfriend learned on her first day of a BSL course... and they’re definitely not what you’re expecting.