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March 19, 2007 | by  | in Theatre |
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Brain Power (The Return Season)

Written & Directed by Dean Hewison
Bats Theatre until 16 March

Brain Power had its first season at the start of the Fringe Festival, playing to packed houses, and eventually winning a highly coveted “honourable mention” in the Theatre category at the Fringe Awards (as well as winning Best Production Design). It was back for a limited season, so I raced along for my last chance to “meet the voices in my head.”

Basically, it’s Theatre Noir – which I adore – set inside the brain of Michael Sanderson, a.k.a. The Vessel. The different thoughts, feelings and states of mind of Michael are embodied in the characters we meet.

While Michael is in a coma, inside his brain a trial of conscience begins: God will determine whether the feeling of guilt is assigned to Michael. As live jazz plays in the corner, we discover there’s also been a murder.

The Concept of Justice, the detective anti-hero played by a brooding Richard Falkner, is on the trail. Along the way, he meets Ruthless Ambition, Pissed Off, Embarrassment, and the insecure Big Scary Monster (Bevin Linkhorn). The twisted plots culminate in a court room show-down presided over by The Concept of God (Tim Gordon), and justice is delivered.

The large ensemble cast work together well and the acting is solid. The scene changes are snappy and short (aided by the Noir-style voiceover) which keeps the production sailing along. I give particular mention to Holly Shanahan who took over the role of Pissed Off for the return season and was utterly sarcastic, tempestuous, and hilarious. The costumes by Fiona Brown, Gemma Crouch-Gatehouse, and Bonne Kemp, and set by Seamus Arnel, Francesca Carney, were excellent with lots of witty touches, particularly Self-Punishment’s S&M style g-string number.

The script and production simultaneously make fun of, and paid tribute to, the Noir genre: the scene where Justice first catches sight of the sexy Ruthless Ambition (Isabel Donelan) and pauses the action to down a quick drink, slap himself, and return to the scene is hilarious.

This dialectic means the script never truly commits to the genre of Noir, but somehow this doesn’t seem to matter. It’s the concept of a murder inside the brain and the characters that inhabit it that’s most intriguing; the Noir is simply a vehicle to allow us insight into this world.

I don’t normally go to the theatre simply to be entertained, but I think I’m in the minority on that one. Yet Brain Power impressed me by being pure, great fun. It is surprisingly rare for a play to be well written, well directed, and well acted. Brain Power is all of these things, and thus, a cracking production.

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About the Author ()

Well hello there. Eleanor was the Theatre Editor in 2007, now she writes the Women's Column and just generally minces about the Salient office. Eleanor is currently an Honours student in Theatre (with a touch of gender). She also has a BCA in Marketing but she tries to keep that on the d-low (embarrassing, because she loves academic integrity and also perpetuating the myth that she's a tad bohemian). If you've got a gender agenda, woo her by taking her a BYO Malaysian. She lies, if you show any interest at all she'll probably tackle you in the street and force you to write a column.

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