We are very excited for the release this Saturday on BBC2 at 22:45, Me, My Mouth and I – a new film by Jess Thom exploring neurodiversity in the arts through the works of Samuel Beckett. Artist, activist and performer Jess Thom – has Tourette’s syndrome and is about to take on the biggest creative challenge of her life. In this film Jess takes us on a funny and unpredictable journey of discovery into one of Samuel Beckett’s most complex plays Not I and asks us to reconsider issues of representation and social exclusion as she prepares to perform the role of ‘Mouth’ in front of a live theatre audience.
Jess meets with fellow disabled artists such as activist, comedian and Silent Witness disabled actor Liz Carr, Beckett expert Derval Tubridy as well other people with lived experience of Tourette’s as she uncovers the central themes originally intended by Beckett for this piece. And as a lateral thinker we see her working with UK MC and rapper Rodney P, to learn from his oratory skills as she works to deliver an unforgettable performance.
Jess challenges the perception that only certain works can be performed by and made accessible to disabled audiences and questions the cultural curation that lies behind this assumption. Navigating her way through the practical and attitudinal barriers, she asks us to consider who is allowed to perform what, and who gets the final say.
About the performance, Jess says: “I’ve long been fascinated by the intensity of Not I. I have a strong affinity with Mouth,and I’m interested in how a neuro-diverse performance would work in practice. We’re claiming Mouth as a disabled voice and will explore the experience from that perspective.”
“By presenting Mouth in a way that works for my unpredictable body and speech, I aim to deproblematize previous interpretations, and show that Mouth is only as isolated as her community makes her.”
If you don’t know Jess already Jess Thom, 37, is a performer and the co-founder of Touretteshero, an organisation that seeks to raise awareness about Tourette syndrome and campaigns for a more inclusive society. Born in London, Thom was formally diagnosed with the condition in her early 20s and exhibits both vocal and motor tics (her frequent involuntary use of the word “biscuit” provided the title for her first standup show, Backstage in Biscuit Land). Jess published Welcome to Biscuit Land, a detailed and engaging guide to a year in her life covering the whole spectrum of her experiences, the challenges and the triumphs.
Welcome to Biscuit Land is available here: http://souvenirpress.co.uk/product/welcome-to-biscuit-land-a-year-in-the-life-of-touretteshero-jess-thom/
More information about Me, My Mouth and I here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bcmh7z