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Radically Neurodiverse Production Of NOT I Will Come to The Public Theater


Following the success of their multi award-winning and internationally touring show, Backstage in Biscuit Land, U.K. based company, Touretteshero, in a co-production with Battersea Arts Centre, is presenting a neurodiverse production of Not I by Samuel Beckett at The Public Theater's Under The Radar Festival, New York City, performing from January 10-13 and 16-19 at BRIC House in Brooklyn.

The critically acclaimed show made its U.K. premiere in 2017, followed by a successful run at Battersea Arts Centre, London, in 2018, and a BBC film commission exploring neuro-diversity in the arts through the work of Samuel Beckett.

Now Not I is making its stateside debut at The Public Theater's landmark festival of contemporary and cutting-edge performance, Under the Radar. Following its U.S. tour, it will move back to the U.K. with dates to be announced later this month.

Artist, writer, and activist Jess Thom has Tourettes Syndrome, a neurological condition that means she makes movements and noises she can't control called tics. In 2010, she co-founded Touretteshero as a creative response to her experience of having Tourettes.

Not I is one of Samuel Beckett's most physically challenging and tongue-twisting monologues. With the support of the Beckett Estate, Touretteshero's production is the first time that someone with Tourettes performs this text. Drawing on references as eclectic as U.K. Grime, street fashion, and cattle auctions, Touretteshero aims to bring diverse, new and curious audiences to Beckett in a way that both honours his work and opens it up to new creative conversations.

For its new interpretation, Touretteshero has created a radical and relaxed theatrical experience in four parts: a warm welcome to the space, a performance of Not I by Samuel Beckett, a short documentary film, and a discussion with the audience. All performances of Not I will be Relaxed. This means there is a relaxed attitude to noise and movement in the auditorium. Latecomers will be admitted, and re-admittance will be allowed throughout the show. Ear defenders will be available for those with sensory sensitivities, and a chill out space is available for anyone who needs to take a break from the space.

Performing as the character of Mouth, Thom wears a bespoke LED-lined hoodie, designed by cutting edge costume designers Kimatica Studio, to strikingly illuminate her mouth amidst a blackout. American Sign Language interpretation is fully integrated to accompany Mouth's words as another layer of visual expression. A custom built see-saw structure, created by artist and designer Will Datson, who regularly works with integrated circus company Extraordinary Bodies, is used to suspend Thom in her wheelchair eight feet in the air, as required by Beckett's stage directions.

The short film that follows documents Thom's creative processes with the monologue, learning lines at home and practising under the tutelage of Beckett scholars and a voice coach. The film also explores the politics of the piece and Thom's views as a disabled performer of Beckett's work.

The relaxed nature of Touretteshero's new theatrical experience places a strong emphasis on audience care and accessibility.

In Backstage in Biscuit Land, Thom shared her experience of having been segregated from the rest of an audience because of her tics. Now she and her collaborators are reimagining conventions that dictate how a theater audience should behave, welcoming everyone to engage with this challenging production, and feel free to tic, shout, or move about.

This inclusive atmosphere is used to full effect in the final part of the experience, in which Thom leads a discussion around themes of neurodiversity, disability culture, gender politics, social exclusion, isolation, representation and accessibility.

Jess Thom, Co-Founder of Touretteshero:

"I've long been fascinated by the intensity of Samuel Beckett's Not I. I have a strong affinity with Mouth, and I'm interested in how a neurodiverse performance works in practice with my unpredictable body and speech. We're claiming Mouth as a disabled character and exploring her experience from that perspective, showing that Mouth is isolated only as much as her community makes her. We want to challenge the perception that only certain work can be made accessible to disabled audiences and ask people to consider who is allowed to perform what, and who gets the final say."

Performer: Jess Thom

ASL Interpreter/Performer: Lindsey Snyder

Director: Matthew Pountney

Lighting Designer: Ben Pacey

Costume Designer: Kimatica Studio

Apparatus Design and Construction: Will Datson

Associate Artist: Amit Sharma

Production Manager: Mark Munday

On Tour Production Team: Erik Perera and Peter Storey
Touring Producers: Rosie Scudder and Reena Kalsi

Radically Neurodiverse Production Of NOT I Will Come to The Public Theater

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