Born deaf to hearing parents, Jonny Cotsen welcomes us into his world with a few well chosen props and an easy way with dance. He shares his and his mother’s experiences of his childhood, which was spent in mainstream schools, and university, where he partied in clubs and awkwardly went on dates.
Opening with a catchy tune offering excellent advice including the message in the title – ‘louder is not always clearer’ – it is clear this show has a lot to say. Cotsen immediately gets the audience laughing and joining in. With a clever mix of physical theatre, comedy and art, there is something for everyone.
As the show progresses, a picture builds of Cotsen. His mother shied away from the term ‘deaf’, insisting he was very hard of hearing and could go to the local mainstream school. He learnt to lip read, to speak clearly, and only in later life did he come to the world of signing. The scene about learning to speak is particularly powerfully done, phonemes building into words, occupational therapy movements turning into strong gym-like moves. Giving a glimpse into why communication via the internet is so much easier, the lip reading challenge is eye opening to the hearing members of the audience, though perhaps not as much as the untranslated signed conversation with a couple of the Deaf audience members.
Although not every part is necessarily the optimum length, overall the piece has a good pace. The humour is sharp and en pointe, very much punching up and painfully relatable if you’ve any experience of hearing difficulties. The focus is on the d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing experience, but hearing people are not excluded by any means. They may even learn something! It is worth noting that from an accessibility point of view, the music is very loud and most of the dialogue is typed in English without voice, though there are also parts that are signed, and plenty with no words.
Though this show is a very personal story of one man’s journey it will resonate with everyone who has experienced hearing difficulties and perhaps enlighten those who have not. Interesting, funny and entertaining you definitely don’t need to be d/Deaf to enjoy this autobiographical piece. With relatable moments, myth busting and excellent physical theatre it is a well spent hour.