Jonny Cotsen’s mother wanted her son to live a ‘normal’ life.
Louder is Not Always Clearer, Summerhall * * * *
So although he was born without the ability to hear, he was never referred to as deaf. Throughout his childhood, Cotsen attended mainstream education and had no contact with the deaf community.
The consequences of this have been far-reaching, as we learn in this honest, funny, illuminating and moving show.
On the positive side, he’s an incredible lip reader (Cotsen didn’t learn to use sign language until he was an adult) and can speak well. The downside is he spent much of his life feeling excluded from both the hearing and non-hearing camps – he didn’t really belong in either.
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Such a specific, autobiographical tale could easily feel self-indulgent and exclusive. Yet Louder is Not Always Clearer is neither. Captioned throughout, the show is accessible to deaf audience members, who will no doubt be silently nodding in recognition at Cotsen’s experiences in daily life. And those of us who have no concept of how you study, get a job, find a partner, have sex, go clubbing, with a hearing impairment, are given a meaningful lens to view it all through.
Co-created by Cotsen and Gareth Clark, of Welsh theatre company Mr & Mrs Clark, this is a show that stays with you. Cotsen’s manner is unassuming yet warm, his dialogue – whether it’s spoken, typed out on a laptop or acted – is clear and witty.
He’s unafraid to be vulnerable, which gives him easy access to our hearts, so much so that when he delivers an entire routine poking fun at hearing people, and our occasional inappropriateness in the face of disability, we laugh knowingly rather than take offence.
We get the message loud and clear.
Until 25 August