Jonny Cotsen’s autobiographical exploration of D/deafness and communication might be personal to him but his story also has a wider resonance.
Though he was born D/deaf, that term wasn’t used in his home and Cotsen grew up in the hearing world. This meant that Cotsen became an exceptional lip-reader, but it also led to years of isolation and a sense of not belonging. His solo show Louder Is Not Always Clearer follows his emotional journey – and it makes for a deeply moving piece of theatre.
The success of Gareth Clark’s production lies in Cotsen’s stage presence. Unsurprisingly language is an integral part of Louder Is Not Always Clearer, but it’s the physicality of his performance that stands out. Bootcamp-style routines symbolise the exhaustion of not being able to communicate – a simple yet powerful analogy.
The audience is made a part of the show too, and there’s a poignant moment where Cotsen speaks to a member of the audience in BSL – in this way the majority of the audience is made to grasp what it is not to be able to understand everything that is being said.
Sound designer Chris Young, sitting on stage in front of a mixing desk, using loops and echoes to strong effect, acts as a conduit between the hearing and the D/deaf worlds. Jorge Lizalde’s AV design is also crucial to the piece, acting both as expositional tool and communicative device. Both worlds are catered to inventively here.