Touretteshero: Backstage in Biscuitland was part of the FIRST 2015 festival of solo performances at the Tristan Bates Theatre.
This production had me smiling throughout, and contains some genius moments of laugh-out-loud comedy. If you were to strip away this piece to its bare bones, you would have an autobiographical account of one woman’s life with insights into her challenges, her friends and a solid explanation of Tourettes. In theory, the presentation of very real and personal facts could easily have created a lecture-style narration and a serious atmosphere. Instead what happens is an explosion of creativity that is filled with wit and humour, as well as handling the informative content effectively. The delivery of the show means that we are genuinely entertained, as well as learning about our leading lady’s life experiences.
This fast paced ‘two-woman solo show’ hosts some fantastic chemistry between co-creators Jessica Thom and Chopin (Jess Mabel Jones). They juggle the show between them with ease, relying on instinct and their very complementary individual stage presences. A particular comedy highlight is the section dedicated to Thom’s hobby of wheelchair research, which involves some brilliantly penned love letters and the best wheelchair personification I have ever seen. The show is dappled with delightfully clever moments, from speedily narrated puppetry sequences to monologues that pull you in with a unique sense of intimacy. There is room in the script for the show to change every time it is performed, which results in an air of continued development. This is not a wholly finished play, which in fact adds to its charm, and I hope that the performers carry on playing with the improvisational element’s results after each show.
The set is a wonderful amalgamation of stuff that gives resounding proof of how amazing tics can be as a source of theatrical inspiration. My mind was set whirring with how there was room for even more interaction with their selection – for some reason I really wanted the dinosaur balloon to get involved. The set teases the audience with its wealth of props, which is good. However, I did want more reveals of how these seemingly random ideas can be transformed into stagecraft, such as when a lovely little scene is pulled together with cushions, ducks, a water bottle and a flashlight.
There are also sections of audience participation, and with the relaxed and open performance tone it seems perfectly natural to have a staring contest with my neighbour, to better understand the urge to tic. ‘Natural’ is key to this show: I felt at ease throughout because nothing was forced or awkward, from the slightly delayed start to the cast and audience sing-a-longs. I also must say a belated thank you to the cast for the Jammie Dodger!
I expect Touretteshero: Backstage in Biscuitland will morph and change in even more surprising ways in the future, and I would recommend keeping an eye out for it when it is revived at the Battersea Arts Centre this spring.
Touretteshero: Backstage in Biscuitland played at the Tristan Bates Theatre on 22 February as part of FIRST 2015: A Festival of Solo Performances. For more information visit the Tristan Bates Theatre website and the Touretteshero website.