Jess Thom has Tourette's. She is also a fantastically entertaining performer. Along with her assistant known as Chopin (Jess Mable Jones), the two put on a fascinating piece of live theatre. Thom's condition makes her involuntarily say 'biscuit' 16,000 times a day, as well as all sorts of other unpredictable things. These tics are not just silly, but often oozing with creativity. When Thom talks about the number of people with Tourette's in the UK she said there are 300,000 people and, in a moment of involuntary tic, 'and nine dinosaurs.'
This sort of unpredictability makes for an awkward start, with the audience being unsure of what constitutes laughing at or laughing with. The set is made up of whimsical things like a photo of Mother Teresa, an anvil with the word 'bin' on it, and a piece of bread named Steve – all things Thom said when asked what the set should be. You aren't sure if the performance is going off the rails or if this is what was planned, or probably most likely, both. But it doesn't take long for Thom and Chopin to win you over through their pure talent and magnetism. In fact, the best parts of the show are when they start to veer from the planned script, seeing not only what the performers improvise in the moment, but how they manage to reel in the chaos.
Instead of just a comedic look at what Thom's life is like, it is not only a hilarious but an incredibly touching one too. Moments like watching Thom try to eat a strawberry or comparing Tourette's to blinking transform the often misunderstood condition into a relatable, everyday experience. Particularly impactful are her stories of her experiences in attending theatre and being asked to move to where people can't hear her. It's even more impressive when you realize Thom has taken this difficult memory and turned it into a positive, where her seat now is the best in the house.
Backstage in Biscuit Land is theatre at it's best. It's not only one of the most entertaining performances happening now, but emotionally powerful, filled with twists and turns, and at the same time enlightening and full of empathy. When theatre makes you challenge your own beliefs about the world, that's when it has gone beyond simply words on a stage into something much bigger. And Biscuit Land is one of the rare ones to do so.