“There is no story about us if it’s without us.” Actor Rox Kilty is explaining Ticcing Along, the show they and professional partner Will Dowland are devising in the Sherling Studio as part of this summer's Sanctuary artist residencies at Lighthouse.
Rox just been watching Will try out ideas for one of the show’s more “perform-y” moments in which he illustrates some of the things that go through his mind and body as a result of living with Tourette Syndrome.
“As neurodivergent actors this is an opportunity for us to share our stories and hopefully spread a little more understanding about our lives,” says Will.
“Ticcing Along blends performance with spoken word and storytelling through movement and physical theatre. It’s funny, quite abstract and might be a bit sweary in places, visceral perhaps, but it’s who we are and many of the things we talk about have happened to us. Obviously, no two people’s experiences are the same, but the more we can entertain a neurotypical audience by sharing our stories the better they might understand other people like us.”
Friends since meeting at the prestigious Rose Bruford School three years ago, Will has lived with Tourette’s since the age of six, three years before he was diagnosed. Rox has an undiagnosed tic disorder that developed in adulthood. They are convinced it’s not Tourette’s.
“Neurodivergence is a spectrum but it’s not a line of severity from A to B, it’s circular with us at the centre and all the various aspects of it around,” they say. “Not all our responses fall within the confines of what is considered appropriate – we show things in different ways – so if we’re able to show that perhaps it will encourage people to think a bit more and empathise with each other.
“For instance, most people think Tourette’s is characterised by swearing. That condition is called Coprolalia, and it only affects 10 to 15 per cent of people with Tourette’s. Similarly, I might be really happy or excited about something, but my face could be completely expressionless; or I might be literally jumping up and down.”
For Will the residency at Lighthouse is a hugely important milestone in his personal and professional development. He grew up in Poole and from a young age was taken to shows and youth theatre at Lighthouse.
“It’s where I fell in love with the theatre and with performing in youth theatre,” he explains. “I did my Foundation Year at Dorset School of Acting at Lighthouse and went on to Rose Bruford where my dissertation encompassed my neurodivergence in structured performance training. Ticcing Along is about putting that into practice to encourage greater understanding.”
It’s a team effort and Will and Rox are working with fellow former Rose Bruford students, as well as other freelance professionals – a situation made possible by a successful application for Arts Council funding.
“This R&D week as part of Sanctuary and a similar week we had at Forest Forge have been invaluable, but with the Arts Council funding we’ve been able to build the team. We’ll finish this week with a sharing performance that will be filmed, and our hope is that the piece will be commissioned then we can take it out on tour.”
To keep up to date with developments follow Will’s Instagram @willdowlandofficial