Accessible Shows · Reviews

Louder is Not Always Clearer Review

 

Image description: A canvas on an easel with people drawn on it with black paint and the words “DEAF NOT STUPID!” written over it in red paint.

Rating:

4 stars

Location: Theatr Clwyd

Company: Mr and Mrs Clark devised and performed by Jonny Cotsen

Last year I got the chance to see Louder is Not Always Clearer as it toured Wales however as I saw it at the final venue on the tour I wasn’t convinced writing a review was very relevant and at that time my blog was more of a mish-mash of topics with some focus on theatre. But now with my new blog being theatre and accessible theatre related and with the show touring again this year I thought it was a good time to share my thoughts and notes about it. Because it’s a show that has left a lasting impression and of course, I believe it’s important to promote accessible shows, D/ deaf and disabled talent and shows that are representative of D/ deaf and disabled people.

When I saw Louder is Not Always Clearer, devised and performed by Jonny Cotsen a Deaf theatre maker, facilitator and teacher, being advertised last year I was excited to go see it and see what the evening had in store as I’d never been to anything like it before and wanted to be more educated and informed about deafness and hearing loss. I was also intrigued to see what the audience’s, both hearing and non-hearing, reactions would be.

Louder is Not Always Clearer is a biographical piece about Jonny’s life as a Deaf man in a world full of words, noise and prejudice. Born to a hearing family it explores his journey from trying to fit into that elusive “normal” society to embracing life as a Deaf person, defying expectations and educating people.

The show combines physical theatre, technology, creative captioning, dialogue and sign language to bring Jonny’s world to life and creatively show that storytelling does not have to rely on the spoken word in order to be entertaining and engaging. Especially when it comes to creating a piece of theatre that is accessible and has the ability to reach a far wider audience.

It’s true that you can never truly understand life as a D/ deaf or disabled person unless you are a D/ deaf or disabled person and it would be disingenuous to say that this show will give you that understanding. It does however educate and give its audiences plenty of insight to at least create more awareness about communicating with D/ deaf and hard of hearing people and about the wider issues of accessibility. Which can hopefully encourage changes in our interactions and become a more aware and inclusive society.

Louder is Not Always Clearer is clever in the way it immerses its audience and captures some of that vulnerability that D/ deaf and disabled people can face in society, as well as the day to day challenges. During one part of the show Jonny challenges the audience to lip read, during which I discovered I’m bad at it, as were 99% of the audience (why do we assume it will be so easy?) And at the end of the show I also learnt that my coordination isn’t too great either as I tried to sign along to a song.

There’s a part of the show where the audience gets a taste of what it can be like when sounds become overwhelming and your head becomes a cacophony of sounds which can prevent you from concentrating on lip reading or understanding what the person you’re conversing with is saying. And in another an insight into going to a night club and feeling the vibrations of the music, especially with heavy bass. As someone with misophonia and who’s body is very sensitive to sound obviously these weren’t particularly pleasant but all is forgiven.

As a disabled person, one of the most relatable aspects of the show was the of often hilarious misconceptions that wider society has of D/ deaf and disabled people. Jonny played the comedy in this expertly and had the audience laughing and perhaps laughing at themselves and things they might have said in the past but in a non-judgemental way.

It was really interesting to witness the different reactions from both D/ deaf and hearing audience members, to watch people interpret in sign language to one another and get the chance to have a signed conversation with Jonny during the show too, which you could tell was greatly appreciated.

Louder is Not Always Clearer is well worth seeing for its awareness and educational elements and social message, so if you can get the chance to see it do so. But it’s also humorous, candid, raw and has a lot of heart without pushing the dreaded “inspirational” word. It will definitely make you think about your wider society and accessibility. I’m delighted that it’s touring again this year and reaching more audiences. It’s suitable for both D/ deaf and hearing audiences and includes the use of sign language and creative captioning. I’ve included the tour details below:

Galeri Caernarfon Friday 3rd May 7.30pm (with post-show talk)

Small World Theatre/ Theatr Byd Bychan, Ceredigion Saturday 4th May 8pm

Machynlleth Comedy Festival Sunday 5th May 2pm

Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff Wednesday 8th May – Saturday 11th May

Bristol Old Vic Bristol Monday 13th May- Wednesday 15th May

Pencoed Library Friday 24th May 7pm

More info about Louder is Not Always Clearer can be found at http://www.mrandmrsclark.co.uk/portfolio/louder-is-not-always-clearer-2019-uk-tour/

And more information about Jonny can be found here: https://community.nationaltheatrewales.org/m/profile?screenName=2s0homlzy9zgb

To learn more about making our communities and theatres, in particular, more accessible read my blog post about D/ deaf Awareness training with Taking Flight

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