Touretteshero: Backstage in Biscuit Land at The Pit
Meet Jess. Jess has Tourette’s and was once asked to leave an audience and move to the sound booth for disrupting the audience. So Jess decided to move ONTO the stage instead. And so her play Touretteshero: Backstage in Biscuit Land was born – a whistle-stop tour of Jess, her syndrome, and the crazy humour and creativity that it produces. Why Biscuit Land? “Biscuit” is Jess’ most common tic, followed by “cat” and “hedgehog”. She says biscuit roughly 16 000 times a day.
The stage is set with objects inspired by some of Jess’ more unusual tics, such as astroturf, a cartoon bin, Madam Theresa, and a loaf of bread called Steve. Even Jess’ co-star is partially inspired by her condition – named Chopin after a particularly tic-inspired incident. Chopin is there both as a co-star and a support worker in case Jess has a “ticcing fit”. This thankfully did not occur during this performance, so Jess insisted Chopin perform her in-case-of-emergency script at full throttle in a zero-punctuation monologue as the finale. It included sheepdogs, sex and obviously a lot of biscuits.
Audience participation is not just encouraged, but mandatory. Examples include a “ticcing Mexican wave” and an unrepeatable x-rated singalong. Humorous interludes such as Fingers on Buzzards (yes buzzards) and Love Letters to Wheelchairs (including a rather sexual Swiss specimen) are interspersed with serious monologues about Jess’ personal experiences of her syndrome – the good, the bad and the downright hilarious. It’s gut-punching honesty heightened by the surreal interruptions of staged mayhem.
The duo are perfectly matched in the irreverent production, with Jess providing the heart, soul and subject matter, and Chopin effortlessly surfing the bizarre wavelength her tics create, leading the piece to feel far more improvised than scripted, but comfortable in its unpredictability,
This show is far more than a dummies guide to Tourette’s – although there is admittedly a lot we can learn from the performance. It’s a lesson in inclusive theatre on its power to teach and break down barriers. It also leaves you feeling like you have taken something illegal, dreading the inevitable comedown from the surreal, theatrical high.
See it if you want to learn, see it if you want to laugh, and see it if you want to learn about the magical NHS toothbrush. There is only one word to end on in light of this experience: biscuit.
Touretteshero: Backstage in Biscuit Land was on at The Pit from 22nd until 26th September 2015, for further information visit here.
Watch the interview with Jessica Thom here: