To call Backstage in Biscuit Land unique is an understatement. There are more ideas and imagination in this one hour show than most of the Fringe programme combined. Jess Thom has Tourette’s and finds herself saying the words “Biscuit” and “Hedgehog” an awful lot. She also has to wear pink padded gloves due to a physical tic that causes Jess to constantly beat her chest.
Jess is joined onstage by friend, performer and puppeteer ‘Chopin’ (also known as Jess Mabel Jones). They both tell the story of Jess’s condition and take the audience on a journey through Biscuit Land. The stage has many props scattered around on it. These include an inflatable dinosaur, a buzzard, four ducks dressed as pterodactyls and a picture of Mother Theresa. Some of the objects work their way into the performance, while others just offer interesting set dressing and emphasise the unpredictable visual nature of the show.
Backstage in Biscuit Land is a performance that goes off script in bizarre and hilarious ways. The tics that Jess has causes her to shout out random phrases that are impossible not to laugh at. The show does have a structure though. On occasion the stage lights dim and Jess takes centre stage to discuss her condition with the audience. This is most poignant when the performer tells the audience about a incident when she attended the theatre as an audience member. This was a bold decision as her verbal tics would be an obvious distraction to other theatre goers. The conclusion to the story is moving and compelling and asks decisive questions on what it is to be disabled as a performer onstage and also as a member of the audience. These questions are significant and the audience will no doubt carry them with them after the performance ends.
The crowd will also take the lasting impression of Jess Thom’s vibrant and comical stage presence. The show is such an endearing one due to the friendship and connection between Jess and ‘Chopin’ and this is the source of most of the laughs. They undoubtedly enjoy performing together and make a great double act that will hopefully be gracing more stages again in the future.