Five years ago I meet a remarkable woman called Jess Thom. She got in touch saying she had Tourettes and would she be OK to come along to see my show Walking the Wall at the Tricycle Theatre. Instinctively and to be honest with little thought I said she would be welcome.
How wrong I was.
Jess does have pronounced tics and verbal outbursts, which are often funny, creative and beautifully absurd. However, some people in the audience objected to her ‘outbursts’ and complained to the theatre staff in the interval.
All of us were somewhat taken aback by this and Jess ended up in the lighting box, segregated from the rest of the audience for the second half. It was frankly awful. Here was I doing a show about separation and occupation and Jess was segregated from the rest of the community, shut away in a tech box.
Her response was as brilliant and inventive as her utterances. She wrote a show called Backstage in Biscuit Land, celebrating her condition and how people react to it. The show is imaginative, beautiful and different every time. I can not recommend it enough.
Backstage in Biscuit Land is on at the Battersea Arts Centre
It’s wonderful – don’t miss it!
Find out more about Jess and the show here: http://www.touretteshero.com
My response has been less creative and frankly less useful but I hope is valid nonetheless.
Where possible I try and organise relaxed performances of my shows. The relaxed performances encourage people to come to the show who may have learning difficulties,behavioural issues and syndromes such as Tourettes. There is a short speech at the start of the show to explain that the performance takes a relaxed attitude to noises, interruptions and fidgets, in fact we welcome it. Lighting plans and sound cues are changed to lessen any sudden or shocking change, there is an area set aside for people to leave the auditorium but stay inside the theatre and if they want to return they are welcome to do so.
There are many things we do to try and make the show accessible and welcoming for everyone.
I was delighted that Jess came along to my last show at the Tricycle theatre and the first half became a memorable and surreal double act with her. The show was one of my favourites of that year.
I am also delighted that Trespass returns to the Tricycle with a relaxed performance on the 4th of May.
There is a surtitled performance on the 27th April for those who are hard of hearing.