Hello! This is a post I’m really excited about sharing with you. A few weeks ago I was asked if I’d like to attend a couple of events at a local venue, and when I found out the subject of the events I absolutely had to accept! This was the first of the events (the next is in a couple of weeks) and is an award-winning show that has received fantastic reviews from critics and the general public. I knew I was in for a treat, but this show completely exceeded my expectations!
When we arrived we sat for a beer and admired the lovely food coming from the kitchen – the pizzas looked INCREDIBLE – and the atmosphere was really lovely and ambient. Kardomah94 would be a fabulous place for a spot of dinner! The show space was fantastic, and we picked a lovely spot with extremely comfortable bucket chairs.
Backstage in Biscuit Land is an extremely powerful show, containing equal measures of comedy and emotion. It is a show unlike any other, and is something that will stay with me for a very long time. It was shown as part of the Heads Up Festival in association with the Battersea Arts Centre, which presents some of the most exciting contemporary British and international theatre in some of the best venues in the city of Hull, of which Kardomah94 is one.
Through a mixture of puppetry, comedy and song by the aptly-named ‘Touretteshero’ Jess Thom – and her sidekick Chopin – we are given a poignant and at times intimate insight into life with Tourettes. You see, Jess Thom has Tourettes, which causes her to say ‘biscuit’ 16000 times a day.
Tourettes is a condition often trivialised by the media. We’ve all heard jokes about people swearing loudly then blaming it on Tourettes, and most of us – myself included – understand very little of the condition, so it was incredibly refreshing to be introduced to something I know very little about.
The set itself was like something out of a dream; huge cardboard cutouts of trees, a loaf of bread, dolphin puppets, an assortment of biscuits and twinkly lights, and as we sat down in our seats we heard a muffled voice projecting a stream of assorted words from the wings. Chopin welcomed Jess onto the stage, and explained that her tics would – inevitably – contribute to the show and its content. We were encouraged to laugh at the tics if we found them funny, and sure enough some were so unusually wonderful they were difficult to ignore. As is turned out Chopin – real name also Jess – is referred to in that way as a result of tics!
Jess explained how tourettes is an awful lot more than the media-portrayal of incessant swearing that we’re all accustomed to. Jess needs to have a care plan sheet, which informs a reader of the steps needed to take when she has a fit as a result of the Tourettes and constant physical and verbal tics, which become completely exhausting. This is another of the realities of tourettes we don’t often hear about; sometimes her tics become so intense she loses the ability to communicate with others. This was extremely interesting to hear, and made us realise how hard life can be with constant physical tics. Jess revealed that her vocal tics have also made life very difficult, and recounted a time where she was asked to leave a theatre as she was apparently disturbing others. This was incredibly emotional – in essence the episode made her feel that she wasn’t allowed to be herself – and this really got everyone thinking.
Anyone who knows me will know how personally invested I am in societal perceptions of disability. My MRes explores disability through literature and the impact this has upon cultural attitudes. Though I have a form of cerebral palsy and other conditions – which aren’t always noticeable – I have been treated disrespectfully and without care by members of the public. It can be really upsetting, and Jess’s story really resonated with me.
The whole show was a spectacular journey of incredible highs and gut-wrenching lows, and when I went to meet Jess and purchase her book and a T-shirt emblazoned with a selection of tics, I was completely overwhelmed. Her work is so integral – so vital – to thousands of people who face prejudice every single day for disabilities they have. Awareness is key; disability doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care where you’re from, or who you are. And I firmly believe that sharing experiences is key to advancing understanding of disability. Disability has many faces and forms, and the more we discuss it the more we can begin to understand. I left on a complete high, and feel privileged to have had an insight – albeit small – into her world.
Jess and Chopin are currently touring their Backstage in Biscuit Land show around the UK. You can see the tour dates and locations here.
Thanks for having me Kardomah94 ; I can’t wait to visit in a couple of weeks for another fantastic show!
Hope you’re having a great evening,