Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Review: Insane in the Brain

Looking back over my notes from last nights show, it's funny to see I obviously had some prejudgements regarding Insane in the Brain, a 'street dance version of One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest' by Bounce. The show opens with a stage full of dancers dressed in incredibly baggy grey tracksuits wearing white masks. It soon becomes apparent that they also have masks on the back of their heads, as they bust moves that are clearly only possible for the double jointed. An impressive start which then leads to my first note: 'Acting?'

Now, I've read One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest so i knew the story. Randall Patrick McMurphy (played by Jack Nicholson in the 1975 film) is a lively gentlemen who agrees to be committed to a mental institution rather than being sent to a work camp. He then proceeds to inject life and energy in to the ward which had previously doomed it's inhabitants to a miserable existence. McMurphy teaches them how to break free from the binds of their illnesses to prove that life is worth living. The scene where we first meet the patients is an awkward exchange of dialogue between the performers, who are clearly more at home with dancing than acting. Thankfully, this was short, and the story is then told through the dancing that we were itching to see after the opening scene. At times the performers 'danced' childish and simple sign language to indicate to the audience what was happening, but I don't think this worked we are smart enough to work out the plot without any of the sign language.

Next we saw the patients humiliated by the guards as they slept. I felt that the music and lighting was weak and could have been better used to enhance the scene. However, after watching the whole show, I see that Bounce were just building the audience up... teasing them with hints of genius before unleashing the climax of the action.

My next note simply says 'worth watching for the bed scene alone!' If I had any reservations over what I was watching, they were instantly blown away by this very slick and perfectly timed sequence where the patients were dancing in and out of bed as individual lights flicked on and off (see pic above). This was seriously impressive! From this point on Insane in the Brain just got better and better. From the yard scene, where a 10 foot fence stood between the cast and audience while McMurphy taught his fellow patients how to dance, to the ward party, where they indulged a little too much on drugs and alcohol, the performers were outstanding. At times they were all doing the same dance routine, but effortlessly in character (with their own quirky mannerisms)... and then add to the mix dancing the same routine, as different characters, and then that character drunk and hallucinating... it was impressive!

I'm loathed to give too much away as I urge you all to catch this show tonight, but it's really tempting to describe every scene (the patient torture, beautiful love scene, the cinema film dance off... are just a few of my favourites)! What I will say is that when there is a dance off in place of a physical fight, you know you're in for a entertaining evening.

Insane in the Brain is a high energy, stylishly executed and very moving piece of dance theatre. I admit I was suprised I enjoyed it so much, but if you get the chance to see the show you won't regret it.

NB: Thank you to the Wyvern Theatre for their hospitality and a splendid night out. Make sure you check out What's On as they have some interesting shows booked in this season. Also, just to add, I haven't been since the reopening, but the seats are supremely more comfortable than the Theatre Royal. ;o)

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