Last night Leftwing Idiot and I headed into town for a night of comedy at the Bloomsbury Theatre. Mixing Tourettes Syndrome and live performance can have unexpected and volatile results so I’m extremely careful in choosing what to go and see and where to go and see it. But because of the line-up I knew I’d be in safe hands at the show yesterday and that nothing was going to stop me enjoying it even if I did find myself shouting about hedgehogs repeatedly.
There’s a community café in Kings Cross called Firebox and the event at the Bloomsbury was a benefit to help them stay open. The line-up, which included Mark Thomas, Francesca Martinez, Jeremy Hardy, and Stewart Lee read like a comedy fan’s wish list. I was excited to see Mark and Francesca, and Leftwing Idiot was excited to see Tony Benn who admitted he wasn’t a comedian, but in fact was as funny as he was engaging.
I called the theatre ahead of time to make sure they knew I’d be chirping away throughout the performance and they reassured me that would be fine. When the lights dimmed and the compere came on, she let the rest of the audience know why I’d be making more noise than they would, and then got on with show.
Mark Thomas was first up and as he took to the stage my mind jumped back to the last time I’d seen him perform and the difficulties I’d had. Being complained about by another member of the audience had been a distressing experience, especially at a show about prejudice and segregation, but it had made me stronger in my determination not to lose out on live shows. Several hedgehogs in, Mark mentioned he’d met me back when I used to say ‘Biscuit’, but I beat him to it and pre-empted his ‘Biscuit’ with one of my own. The audience laughed so I was able to relax and enjoy the show.
Annoyingly, I had a ‘ticcing fit’ just before Francesca Martinez went on and had to be wheeled out onto the foyer landing by Leftwing Idiot. We got back in soon enough to catch most of her set and she was brilliant. She’s been a big supporter of Firebox from the start and was responsible for putting together the amazing line-up.
We did a lot of laughing from start to finish and I did some exuberant over-reacting when David Jordan came on with a guitar and sang a couple of songs. But it was what happened during the interval that touched me the most.
Leftwing Idiot and I were in the stalls, in front of four young men who we’d never met. As people started shuffling out to go to the bar, one of the young men who’d been listening to me ticcing away said, ‘I know you, you’re Touretteshero aren’t you? I follow you on Twitter.’ I said I was, and joked about how identifiable my tics make me. We chatted for a while and his mates asked lots of questions about Tourettes before the lights went down for the second half.
The amazing thing about this brief and unexpected interaction was how accepting they all were. I could hear them muttering away about the relative merits of each act but they had nothing critical to say about me punctuating each sentence with a tic.
I’ve talked before about how quickly attitudes can change and how I want to change the world ‘One tic at a time,’ but this really showed me the benefit of openness as well as the power of social media. Twitter meant that half the job of explaining my tics was done before I even arrived at the theatre. Thanks to the curiosity and acceptance of these young men, I was able to do the rest.
It was a great night from start to finish – Leftwing Idiot and I left late but happy. I’ve got a few days off coming up and I’m going to try and get down to Firebox because it sounds great.