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Theatre Review: Brainstorm @ Nuffield Southampton Theatres

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Small-scale theatre productions can often find it hard to find their feet. Brainstorm, however, is a confident piece of theatre - and, given this was a youth production, this is impressive.

Though some parts become a little monotonous, the show features excellent coming timing and explores an interesting concept. There is certainly room for development, but the potential is certainly there.

The concept here is a novel one. The show explores the teenage mind, both on a practical and scientific level. On the one hand, Brainstorm explains the science behind how the teenage mind develops. Admittedly, the explanation is basic and a little dull: I’m not sure anyone really goes to the theatre expecting a GCSE Biology lesson. The sections of the performance that are scientific are, sadly, the most monotonous.

On the other hand, the sections that explore neurology from a more pragmatic and day-to-day level are incredibly compelling. Seeing teenagers explaining their attitudes to social media, back-chatting their parents, and taking risks are both interesting and well-presented. Perhaps a bigger focus on this could've made the production more effective - over explaining the science of the story feels somewhat unnecessary. 

Brainstorm's comedic elements are also impressive. The children caricature typical teenagers with perfection: the boy annoyed at his mum’s demands, or the girl hating her mum prying on her Snapchat. But it doesn't stop there.They also bring a unique comedy when taking the double-role of parents: the dad with an addiction to marathons, and getting his son to cheer him on, or the mother who can’t stop complaining about the state of their child’s room and their failure to clean the dishes properly. I think “why have you not done the dishes” with the response “because they're dirty” is something I should have employed during my teenage years.

At the same time, however, they also managed to insert a novel dimension of emotion into the play. Intimate conversations between the teenagers about what they choose to withhold from their parents feel both personal and meaningful. It's a little cheesy, but for the majority of the older audience, which included the child’s parents, it feels authentic. The production ends by reading out what the audience had written to the question “If I could tell my teenage self-something it would be that...” at the start of the performance, which is a nice addition. It rounds off the performance in a way that makes it feel complete and meaningful.

There are a couple of stand-out performances: the free runner displays some impressive acrobatics and has a good cheeky-chappy persona, while the girl who hates modern day fashions has an excellent sassiness, which could allow her to develop into a very well rounded theatrical star in the future. 

On reflection, having seventeen teenagers cast is a little too many. The idea is to exhibit a whole range of identities: sporty, geeky, enigmatic, sassy, cheeky. In reality, though, if you wanted to express every dimension you’d need hundreds of kids. Meanwhile, having around ten may have made the stage less crowded and the opening introductory session less repetitious. Equally, fewer performers would have allowed a little more continuity within the different characters. 

Overall, though, Brainstorm explores an interesting concept. It needs less actual scientific content. It probably needs fewer characters. But it has a unique comedic angle, while allowing for interesting content and a novel emotional approach. The idea needs developing, but the potential is there. Let’s hope we see a more advanced version in the future.

Brainstorm was performed at the Nuffield Theatre on the 24th & 25th August, directed and produced by Fluid Motion Theatre Company.




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