Upon entering Soho Theatre, the audience is met with the humming vibrations of upbeat, lively music being played live by DJ and performer, Gaia Ahuja (G33). The remaining cast, made up of Chris Fonseca and Raphaella Julien playing themselves, along with Harry Jardine as Chris’ voice, all dancing along. It makes it a relaxed, joyous entrance to the performance, producing a sense of ease and a connection with the performers, in a way that music and movement only can achieve. Once settled, the show begins.
With a simple set up on stage – DJ table, three microphones and a large screen behind the actors – the audience quickly understands the layout of the show, which is perfectly curated for both hearing and deaf people to fully appreciate. Fonseca, who co-wrote the show, is telling his story through BSL, while Jardine, his co-writer, acts as his voice, interpreting for hearing audience members. The whole performance is captioned too, allowing a completely inclusive atmosphere.
Once established, the show takes off, delving into Fonseca’s story about his life, the people he met, the joys, triumphs, trials, and tribulations he endured as a Deaf, Black boy growing up and coming to terms with, and eventually celebrating, his Deafness. This is presented through the mediums of rap, dance, spoken word, complimented wonderfully by the visual effects of the background.
Throughout the performance, every member of the cast shines. Fonseca demonstrates charisma, intelligence, terrific timing instincts and fantastic dance abilities. He makes valuable and education points, highlighting the difficulty of being both Black and Deaf, and illuminating the ways racism and audism do not cancel each other out, but add to the discrimination faced. Jardine’s timing and support is immensely valuable to the quality of performance and his chemistry and evident brotherhood with Chris is evident throughout. Julien is a formidable support to Chris, and her own exploration of self is marvelous. Her dance ability and performance level is also sublime, adding well-needed balance to the performance. Finally, Ahuja, AKA G33, not only exhibites her talent on the discs, but performs the key characters in Fonseca’s life with clear comedic timing.
This production is poetic and vibrant, marrying hearing and sign language in a beautiful collision that should be encouraged. It embodies language in every possible sense of the word. This beautiful, challenging, uplifting show is absolutely worth seeing.
Written by: Chris Fonesa and Harry Jardine
Directed by: Harry Jardine
Choreography by: Chris Fonseca
Produced by: Sian Weeding for Follow the Signs in association with Soho Theatre
Composed by: Yacoulb Didi
BSL Consultant: Deena Shastri
Follow The Signs plays at Soho Theatre until 27 August. Further information and bookings can be found here.