By Holli Harms
Not I by Samuel Beckett, and starring Jess Thom as Mouth, part of The Public Theatre’s Under The Radar Festival and now playing at Brooklyn’s Bric is a performance of voices, of language outside of words, letters, and the feeling that you fit in just the way you are.
The ones required to sit in the corners of our society the ones we have set aside as outcasts demand they say nothing are often the elderly, the incarcerated, in many places still the women, and those living with neurodiversity, such as the performer Jess Thom who has Tourettes. These are the ones we want to remain quiet. We do not want them to disturb the daily routine of our lives, our rides in our cars, our trains, our subways, and buses. But holding in the voice, keeping the silence, will eventually lead to splitting themselves open and finding the words again, and the vowels and the sounds, and the story of their every day, all jammed into one monologue, Beckett’s monologue, spoken at full speed. And it is said at this pace because pauses, hesitations, are spaces left open for the interruption. And interruptions can stop the spilling of the words. Here the pauses to catch the breath are met with further energy with (on this night) one word said again and again, “biscuit” because there is no silence in Tourettes.
Traditionally staged with only the actor’s mouth shown this production has the actor’s face partially hidden by a hood so that the mouth and cheeks are visible. And the body hovering 8 feet in the air, as is required by Beckett’s stage directions, is not hidden in complete darkness as is the norm no this time we see the body. After all, it is the body that carries the mouth. On stage with Jess is an ASL performer signing everything Jess says. I know now how to sign “biscuit,” which in British terminology means “Cookie”. On the night I saw it the ASL performer was Lindsay D Snyder, who gets a chance with Jess’s help to show us the intricacies of signing.
New ways of looking at the world and communication and inclusion and exclusion in one hour. Magic of sharing.
The “play” is roughly 12 minutes give or take, but the evening is an hour. For here we are all of us on pillows and cushions and chairs, in a community learning about Tourette’s and what it’s like to live with it. Our instructor, our navigator on this journey, Jess Thom could not be more affable, charming, engaging and funny. She deflects her tics with humor and soon enough even that is really not needed. She had us at “biscuit, hedgehog, cats.” Stay till the end and get your chance to have a moment of loud unapologetic noise.
I have never been to anything like this, and I felt, as I know my fellow audience members did, that I was so glad and so honored to be there. Beckett was very specific in how his plays should be staged and performed, no director interpretation allowed with his works – it says so in his will, but Jess contacted his son, and after much discussion, he agreed to allow her to do it her way, honoring the play, but also adding whenever it happened, “hedgehogs”, “biscuits” and “cats”. Aren’t we all so lucky for that!
Go, go and take a friend I promise you will not regret it!
NOT I BY SAMUEL BECKETT
A Touretteshero and Battersea Arts Centre Production, in association with the Albany
Performed by Jess Thom
Directed by Matthew Pountney
ASL Performer: Lindsey D. Snyder
ASL Consultant: Alexandria Wailes
ASL Interpreter: Monique Sarpy
Designer: Ben Pacey
Production Team: Mark Munday, Erik Perera, and Peter Storer
Producers for Battersea Arts Centre: Rosie Scudder, and Reena Kalsi
Co-Presented by The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival and BRIC
Please contact the venue if you have any additional access requirements by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Performed in English and American Sign Language (ASL).
January 10 – January 19, 2020
The Bric 647 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11217
Running Time 1 Hour
Relaxed Performance Information: All performances of Not I are accompanied by an ASL interpreter/performer and are Relaxed. This means that if you tic, shout, or move about, you’re more than welcome. You can choose where you sit, stand or lie down. You can go in and out of the show when you want. And the great thing is, everyone can benefit from a Relaxed Performance. The venue is accessible to those who use wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, canes, and other devices that assist with mobility. Ear defenders are available if it’s too loud and you wish to stay in the theater. In addition, for those who wish to enjoy the show in a quieter space, an additional room will be available with a sound feed of the performance.
Trained service animals are welcome. If you have an allergy to dogs, please let the venue know in advance.