Two weeks ago I went to London with Oblong to see a performance I’d been looking forward to for a long time. We journeyed to Arts Depot in North Finchley to watch Backstage in Biscuit Land, written by and starring Jess Thom, co-founder of Tourettes Hero; Jess Mabel Jones, performing as Chopin, as named by Jess’s tics; and Matthew Pountney, aka Leftwing Idiot (another ticced nickname). I mentioned Jess in my first post back in November, when I began this blog. I was struggling a lot at the time, and for a long while had toyed with the idea of writing a blog, but had never been able to pin down a theme I thought I could commit to. I encountered Jess’s blog and website, which gives her account of living with Tourettes syndrome, and relays not only the difficulties encountered, largely due to others’ reactions and the lack of understanding about various disabilities, but the many positive and life-enhancing aspects of having Tourettes.
As a direct result of reading the Tourettes Hero blog, I realised that the thing I knew most about, and that is often overlooked in the media, is the day to day experience of having mental health conditions, and the way that their impact is often poorly understood. Consequently, I began on this blogging adventure.
Backstage in Biscuit Land, was (and is) a hilarious, heart-warming, somewhat surreal, but also moving show, combining puppetry, songs, humour, and spontaneity with a serious message about the importance of inclusivity in theatre. All performances are relaxed, which means that people are free to make noise, come and go from a performance, and that lighting levels are adjusted for the comfort of audience members who might find the darkness and contrast of bright lights on stage difficult to deal with.
You can see what Jess and Chopin have to say about the show here:
If you are interested in seeing the show yourself, it is on its way to America and Canada at the end of May and the beginning of June, and will be back in London in July.
I was especially glad I got to see this performance a fortnight ago for several reasons. Firstly, I had been looking forward to it since I booked the tickets near the beginning of the year. Secondly, there have been a number of performances I have missed in the past year or two, despite having tickets bought ahead of time. Oblong and I have missed gigs and shows in both London and Brighton because I have been too anxious on the day to make it, which is upsetting to me on a number of counts. I always feel horribly guilty that it is not only me who misses out, but Oblong too, and often the things we have missed have been performances we’d both looked forward to – not just tickets we’d purchased because I wanted to go. I also feel guilty to the performers, particularly in small shows, for reducing their audience; I feel bad if it was a show that had high demand, because someone else could have had the tickets; and I feel bad for myself, for missing out. The last time this happened, we missed seeing Kate Tempest in a performance we’d both been looking forward to for a long time, and after that, we decided that it was probably best we didn’t buy any more tickets to things for a while. That was a year or two ago. In retrospect, I don’t think it was the most helpful decision, because it compounded the punishment I experienced for being anxious. Anyway, I was consequently not only pleased but slightly proud and relieved that we made it to Arts Depot a couple of weeks ago. I love the theatre, and am delighted I made it to such a great venue.
After being in Biscuit Land, I became quite overwhelmed, not just due to my enjoyment of the show (though partly; I often find live theatre very emotive), but because I was reminded how helpful I had found Jess’s blog when I had been in a difficult place in November. When I spoke to Jess after the performance, she was very kind, despite my being a bit tearful in the theatre foyer. I have a great sense of gratitude for the kindness shown in that moment, for the help her blog has given me, and the fact that I was prompted to begin to locate my voice and begin this blog.
I hadn’t planned to take a break from blogging as I did at the start of this year – it happened as result of devoting more time to the write up of my Master’s thesis, and then due to feeling guilty about spending time writing anything that wasn’t for my PhD. Nevertheless, I kept intending to return here and after seeing Backstage in Biscuit Land, my resolve to write here returned. If you are enjoying reading this, you can thank Tourettes Hero by visiting the website, and perhaps going to see a performance. And also, by always being kind.