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Insane in the Brain
Hall for Cornwall, Truro, 20 October 2009

bounce-insane-in-the-brainAdamski and Seal told us back in 1990, that, “We’re never going to survive unless we get a little crazy,” and so mirrored Ken Kesey, in his novel ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ – who had long before described his lead as someone who “knew you can’t really be strong until you can see a funny side to things.”

It is from this mindset that the Bounce Street Dance Company re-interpret Kesey’s novel. The book is a story of institutional restrictions and the effects these have on our psyche. Bounce are careful to recreate this sense of imprisonment within the show, but with the important difference, that the characters seek to fight back against their oppression through their physicality. New inmate, McMurphy, causes them to embrace those aspects of themselves that set them outside the norm and they express their individuality through some breathtaking, high-energy dance sequences. The street dance form, with its ability to embrace “battling”, as a means of expression, gives the inmates a means successfully opposing their captors.

One of the best examples of this comes early on in the piece when one patient’s obsessive compulsive need to measure parts of the bed against his body becomes an impressive dance sequence implemented by him and mirrored, with their own individual interpretation, by his ward mates. The audience’s attention is diverted, from side to side and from person to person, as the dancers are spotlighted and then plunged back into darkness as they rage against their confinement.

Themes of imprisonment and escape continue to be highlighted as, in one sequence, the company escape the institution and join the audience in the auditorium to eat popcorn and watch an apparently old time black and white movie which then turns into a street style battle of its own. As the escapees are taken away, the audience is left feeling less secure in the notion that an invisible wall exists between our world and theirs. “Could that as easily be me?’” we are left asking ourselves.

Most harrowing, and so almost the most visually amazing, are the scenes where three of the inmates are suspended on the back of the stage and subjected to electric shock treatment. Their pain is tangible and, yet so is their resistance, as bungee lines allow them to convulse and move up and down the full height of the backdrop.
How far this resistance against the powers that be succeeds is a matter for each member of the audience to decide for themselves – as the ending is more than just a little bitter sweet – but perhaps for these characters, and in life itself, it is in the struggle that we come to define ourselves most completely.

‘Insane in the Brain’ is touring now – see www.insanetour.co.uk for details.

Words: Alan Butler