It is Fringeworld time again here in Western Australia and to be honest, I was not particularly psyched about it this year, mainly because I could not navigate the festival’s website or guide with my screen reader software.
Then I read about a show called Deaf Comedy Fam by Ray Bradshaw, a stand-up comedy gig about life as a hearing person living with deaf parents.
I have always been hearing impaired and I have worn hearing aids on and off throughout my life. I currently wear a hearing aid in my right ear and I have a cochlear implant on the left.
I have also always felt a bit self-conscious about my lack of hearing. Often feeling guilty at the frustration I cause by my constant reply of “pardon” and feeling stupid when I still can’t get it after one thousand repeats
I hoped that by seeing this show I might overcome this, a cheap form of therapy you might say. You know what? That is exactly what happened.
For those of you who do not know of him yet, Ray Bradshaw is a young Scottish comedian who was one of three children of deaf parents.
Note: Hearing impaired and Deaf are different. The former (i.e. me) can hear somethings with assistance, while the latter hear nothing at all.
The show consisted of Ray standing on stage dressed entirely in black and standing in front of a black curtain. He gave his performance in English while interpreting himself in sign language AT THE SAME TIME! It was incredible.
I assume that the choice of outfit and staging was to aid the audience in being able to see the signing.
I have not seen such impressive multi-tasking since I did the aerobatic flight back in 2015. On that day, the pilot was; controlling the plane, being in constant contact with the control tower, and keeping up a natural conversation with me all while doing stomach-churning tricks in an effort to make me throw up. I did not by the way.
Who says men cannot multitask?
Ironically, this was also the day where my ears were blocked so my hearing was worse than usual and I cannot understand sign language (not that it would have helped, I am also visually impaired), so I almost did not go. As it turned out though, the acoustics in that room at The Brass Monkey were perfect so it was not a problem. I wonder if that was just a coincidence.
The other example of irony I spied was the fact that a comedy show about disability was upstairs so I had to walk up the stairs and get Damion to carry my wheelchair up. This just goes to show that not all disabilities are created equal. The staff were super helpful though.
I know many Scottish people and in my experience; they tend to speak fast. Ray did not though, he spoke slowly. Not in a patronising way mind you. It was more in a “I really want you to get what I’m saying since you paid for your ticket” kind of way. This is probably due to the fact that he was signing too I would imagine.
I cornered him after the show for a chat and this is not his default mode though. I think he did automatically start signing to me but stopped when he realised I could hear him. He is so lovely.
***NOTE to PERFORMERS: Beware. If you do something and I like it, I will attempt to bond with you. ***
I learnt some cool stuff too. For example:
Did you know that sign language differs from country to country? Even in different countries that speak the same spoken language. I assumed it would be universal.
Or, that sign language doesn’t only rely on the hands but your posture and your facial expressions too? In fact, the way you hold your eyebrows can change a sentence entirely.
On a less technical note, I learnt the mischief kids could get up to when Mum and Dad cannot hear. This has further strengthened my resolve never to have children.
Of course, I also learnt some sign language. Although, in the interest of full disclosure, I learnt them from Damion who learned them from watching Ray not from Ray himself (my ability to see detail is not that good).
I learned the words “Scottish,” Irish, Brothel” and “Shit”.
I would be happy to demonstrate them to you. But as my left hand is permanently clawed, and given the details of the second fact above, who knows what I would actually be saying.
I did have cause to sign “Scottish” at the gym on Sunday and I was not even referencing the show. But I do not think I will use the first two very often other than that. I do love using the “S bomb” though, and we do have not one, but two brothels around the corner from our apartment building.
Perhaps I will have to give someone covert directions one day.
They really would be covert directions too, unless the other person happens to speak sign language as well.
PS – Ray if you are reading this; loved the show. Let’s be friends!