Ray Bradshaw is a great observational comic; his material covers everything from the best thing he's seen at the Fringe, to what happened when he played an adoption trick on his brother. But there is one thing that particularly stands out about this show: it is bilingual, performed in BSL (British Sign Language) and English. Whether you speak one or both, it will have you laughing out loud.
Ray grew up with deaf parents and hearing siblings, so he is fluent in both languages. This gave him more responsibilities as a child – like helping his parents phone the bank – and also gave him the opportunity to use his powers for more devious ends. (What would you do if you had the chance to interpret your school parents' evening?) Needless to say it often didn't go quite to plan, but that makes for all the better tales.
I am hearing but I understand BSL, so I was intrigued by the prospect of a bilingual comedy show. To my delight, it is not a gimmick; both the spoken and the signed parts build on each other and make the whole better. The signing is visually appealing even if you don't understand it, while also providing an interesting insight for hearing people into how Deaf people communicate. The show touches on important issues as well: delays in getting a passport if no interpreter is available, the question of official recognition for BSL, and the extraordinary lengths one Central American nation went to in an attempt to create an official sign language of its own.
The show is in three parts. The first uses a voice-over while Ray signs; the second has a screen with a video showing Ray signing, while the live Ray talks; and in the third part Ray talks and signs the show simultaneously. I felt the voice-over was best for those following both languages, though the part where he both spoke and signed also worked, and is very impressive (differences in word order make it much more difficult than it seems). When using the video, on the other hand, Ray had a tendency to turn and check the timings too often, and indeed he fell out of sync before the end and had to switch to signing and speaking.
Ray is an engaging comic, who uses his powers for good – though the tales of him using them for bad are so very funny. In Deaf Comedy Fam he has built a truly inclusive show, combining a mix of dry Scottish humour and great storytelling… and which might just teach you something in between your giggles.