Backstage in Biscuit Land

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Backstage CR Jonathan Birch 3 HR
Backstage CR Jonathan Birch 3 HR

Malthouse – Beckett theatre 12 – 16 October 2016

Biscuits, hedgehogs and choruses about sex with animals might not seem like obvious or cohesive topic choices. Jessica Thom’s Backstage in Biscuitland, a semi-structured exploration of her experience with Tourette’s with assistance from Jess Mabel Jones, disproves this.

Thom’s endearingly earnest discussion of her verbal and physical tics, including saying ‘biscuit’ 16000 times per day, segues seamlessly to her sombre, “serious monologue” about being made to feel like an unwelcome disruption. She offers an emotive retelling of a moment when she had been asked to watch a show from the sound booth to avoid disturbing her fellow audience members.

Thom weaves candid stories about her tics – like goading the lamp post outside her bedroom window about the moon”

Focusing on the sense of exclusion, Thom removes the barrier between herself and her audience, reminding us of our common ground regardless of physical ability: the desire to feel welcome and wanted.

Witty, frequently absurd, and simultaneously insightful, Thom weaves candid stories about her tics – like goading the lamp post outside her bedroom window about the moon – with puppetry, singing, and rule-free “buzzard” game shows.

The performance is inspired and guided by Thom’s tics. All props present, Jones informs us, were originally Thom’s tics, from the loaf of Steve to a cardboard cut-out of Mother Teresa. Her vocal tics provide a never-ending basis for improvisation for the duo. Both Thom and Jones delight in the signs that AUSLAN interpreter Jasmine produces for Thom’s tics, occasionally repeating phrases to see her repeat their favourite signs, including “swallowing hair.”

Biscuit land by name and biscuit land by nature, the performance returns to Thom’s most frequent tic in various manners. Jones, or Chopin as Thom’s tics have dubbed her, sprays the audience with the biscuity scent of an “old-fashioned” store, passes a tin of biscuits around the audience, and requests that the audience perform an “echolalic wave” by repeating ‘biscuit’ in wave formation across the room.

This whirlwind journey promotes self-acceptance and challenges the conventions of public spaces like theatre that exclude people with disorders and disabilities like Tourette’s.

Stay to buy a Live Young, Die Biscuity t-shirt after the show. Leave with a hint of biscuits still lingering in your hair, your mouth, and your heart.