Pros: An insightful, chaotic and joyful show about day-to-day life with Tourettes’.
Cons: Things will go wrong. The uptight out there may find this uncomfortable.
Backstage in Biscuit Land is probably unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. For one hour, Jess Thom, with the able assistance of her sidekick Chopin, takes her audience on a journey through her life with Tourettes’. Before you take a step backstage into ‘Biscuit Land’ (you’ll soon see why it’s called that), there are three things you should know: during the show Jess will say the words biscuit or hedgehog a lot (there you go), you are allowed to laugh as much as you like, and she might experience a ticking fit, where her tics becomes so intense that they are out of control.
Backstage in Biscuit Land is a wonderful hour that is as much a lesson in the misconceptions associated with Tourette’s as it is a creative joy. Thom’s tics cause her to veer off script constantly but the show is so relaxed that this becomes a fun diversion rather than a careering meander. The expectation that she might experience one of her ticking fits hangs over the audience’s expectations, much like it must hang over someone with Tourette’s every day, but because Thom and Chopin have the audience so at ease, you feel it wouldn’t matter either way.
The show features a mixture of Thom and Chopin riffing off each other (‘Tourette’s is like covering up a whale’s blow hole’) and signposted and self-aware ‘serious bits’. It’s fitting that one of Thom’s worst experiences with Tourette’s was being asked to move to a sound proof booth in a theatre because the theatre is the territory that she reclaims for herself and other people with Tourettes’ in this show.
We get an experience of what the discomforts of Tourette’s are like – there is a scene where Thom tries to eat a plate of strawberries without smashing them all in her face. What could be a colossal inconvenience becomes funny (‘Anyone fancy a smoothie?’), but Thom and Chopin are always in control. And that’s one of the great successes of the show – you feel that Thom is so in control of her condition that it allows you to feel comfortable enough to learn.
Thom is careful to point out that Tourette’s has become for her an empowering ‘language generator’ that we can all learn from. Her tics are often absolutely hilarious. She harnesses them to her own advantage and every few seconds comes out with the kind of abstract one liners that Noel Fielding spends months writing. This is not just an uplifting experience because Thom is a genuinely inspiring woman but a fantastic production that has been well crafted into an immensely entertaining hour.