Sign of the times

The Eastgate Theatre welcomes a comedy first on 4 October when Glaswegian stand up Ray Bradshaw performs Deaf Comedy Fam – the world’s first comedy show performed simultaneously in British Sign Language and English.

Winner of best show at this year’s Scottish Comedy Awards, the show is all about growing up with deaf parents. Bradshaw’s dad was born deaf, while his mum lost her hearing following a bout of measles when a baby – so he and his hearing siblings were brought up with British Sign Language as their first language.

“I remember being in the playground at five or six years old and signing to the other kids and they didn’t sign back,” said Bradshaw in a recent interview. “I just thought they were dead stupid.”

Rather than missing out in any way, Bradshaw’s home life and upbringing with deaf parents was as rich, warm and colourful as any other – with plenty of comedy gold. Part of the show’s purpose is to emphasise just how much fun his family life was, from his paranoia as a child that his parents could actually hear him and were only pretending to be deaf, to the time, aged nine, when he negotiated the sale of their house.

Although signing while speaking is second nature for Bradshaw, it can still be challenging for a comedian given how British Sign Language is structured differently from spoken English. This means that punchlines, and therefore laughter, often come at slightly different times from the hearing and deaf members of the audience.

Such a ripple effect only adds to the experience of a show that is not only accessible to deaf and hearing audiences alike, but which manages to be hilarious in two languages at the same time.

Ray Bradshaw performs Deaf Comedy Fam at the Eastgate Theatre, Peebles, 7.30pm, Thursday 4 October. Tickets £15, £13, £6 under 15s available from Box Office on 01721 725777 or online.