Backstage in Biscuit Land (Tourettes Hero)
QPAC, Cremorne Theatre
October 19 – 23
When the audience is led in a pre-show round of ‘heads, nipples, knees and toes… (knees and toes)’ by Jess Mabel Jones it is not even the strangest bit of the beginning of “Backstage in Biscuit Land”. The stage is cluttered with a range of random items, picked by its star, Jess Thom in the show’s planning stages … an anvil, circular saw, picture of Mother Teresa, a cartoon-faced bin with a cape and more.
Soon things are in the safe but unpredictable hands of Thom, artist, writer and part-time superhero who has the neurological condition Tourette’s Syndrome, which means she has movements, sounds (such as saying the word biscuit… which she does 16 000 times a day) and tics she cannot control. The show allows her to share her unique perspective on life it has provided her, through comedy, puppetry and song.
Thom’s assistant Chopin (Jess Mabel Jones), is also on stage to help out and do her best to keep things on track, a near impossible task as things venture to all sorts of strange places, from repeated lamppost abuse to talk of marriage to an egg, trigonometry teachers, toadstools, Trump bashing and a flirtatious Swiss talking wheelchair … which make for some interesting signs from Auslan interpreter Melinda Bush. There are poignant parts too as Thom, speaking from her wheelchair (necessitated by her tics) and beating her chest involuntarily, talks about what her tics feel like, recounts the upsetting experience of being unwelcomed as a theatre-goer and creates some strawberry stage carnage as she shows the difficulty she experiences in eating.
“Backstage in Biscuit Land” is an absolutely unique theatrical experience, beginning as it does with explanation of what to do if the performer has a fit on stage. And the result is an absolutely wonderful, though occasionally obscene (but only amusingly so) show from a vibrant, engaging performer. Thom not only achieves her ambition of demythologising the stereotype of Tourette’s but in doing so, she gives audiences an hour of unrestricted fun … even if it is at the expense of a family secret and accidental talk of Chopin’s mum’s tits. The best thing is that all shows AUSLAN interpreted and every performance is ‘relaxed’ to welcome people who find it difficult to follow the usual conventions of theatre behaviour, making for a more dynamic theatrical experience.. at once crazy, surreal, uplifting and moving. And if that is not enough, there is even some biscuits on offer.
Photo c/o – James Lyndsay