BBC Two to screen Me, My Mouth and I – a new film exploring neurodiversity in the arts through the works of Samuel Beckett

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A face illuminated by the hood it's wearing

Not I. Photograph: James Lyndsay

Me, My Mouth and I is a new film, co-produced by Touretteshero and Sunshine, that is part of BBC TWO’s Performance Live strand (a partnership between BBC Arts, Arts Council England and Battersea Arts Centre) which showcases some of the most exciting artists working in performance today.

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 Thom 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.”

Jess discovers that much of what ‘Mouth’ says relates to her own lived experience of Tourette’s syndrome. The audience will witness her personal exploration of disability culture in the arts and her attempt to prove that her interpretation of the piece might be closer to Beckett’s original intentions than we previously thought.

By combining Jess’s own experience as a disabled performer, alongside the rigorous rehearsal process for the performance, this film draws on Jess’s research and development of Not I as a springboard to explore the ideas and themes in Beckett’s work.

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.

“By presenting Mouth in a way that works for my unpredictable body and speech, I aim to de-problematize previous interpretations, and show that Mouth is only as isolated as her community makes her.”

Transmission: Saturday 21st July 2018 – 22:45 – BBC TWO. Me, My Mouth and I is available on BBC i-player until August 20th.