DramaMusicalNorth WestReview

Insane Animals – HOME, Manchester

Reviewer: Jay Nuttall

Writers: George Heyworth & Liv Morris

Director: Phillip McMahon

It is difficult to find the correct adjective to describe Bourgeois & Maurice’s new musical Insane Animals making its world premiere at HOME. But perhaps they have hit the nail on the head and insane is about right. A romp of epic proportions through space and time almost literally dripping with kitsch, glitz and glamour, Insane Animals is a glittery, multi-coloured whirlwind of a ride asking questions about humanity, immortality and the right shade of lipstick.

Writers and performers George Heyworth and Liv Morris are better known in the cabaret world as Bourgeois & Maurice and have been writing songs and creating shows for over a decade. Insane Animals marks their musical debut, several years in the planning. It seems quite pertinent that while the world starts to get to grips with the coronavirus outbreak this show is a leftfield swipe at the future of the human race. We’re going to have to do something more drastic than simply cut out plastic to avoid aplocalipstick! Bourgeois & Maurice are two, hyper glam aliens sent to earth in an attempt to help humanity from itself, backed by their equally glam band – The Forgetables.

Without giving too much away there are some very funny surprises in store as in order to get to the root of the problem the duo explore the ancient Mesopotamian myth of The Epic of Gilgamesh. Regarded as one of the earliest surviving great works of literature, King Gilgamesh appears in numerous legends and myths in his quest to become immortal. There is an obvious juxtaposition about presenting this ancient middle-eastern story in such outlandish style but it begins to make sense, especially between the King’s homoerotic relationship with the fawn gazelle Enkidu that results in the poor beast’s demise. But not before one of the most memorable numbers of the first half entitled I’m Gay For You’. The past is left behind in the first half as our time-travelling duo speed Gilgamesh through to present day and an imagined future of transhumanism – the idea of downloading our brains as data into machines or cyberspace.

Bourgeois & Maurice, as narrators and visiting aliens, are the glue that holds this show together. At times it feels like experiencing a very surreal yet very funny dream. Their intelligent and witty wordplay are sublime as they bring us up to date from ancient times to modern-day, as is their self-referential and self-deprecating humour throughout. “Thank God for us telling the truth, wearing sequins and getting paid” they tease: “Righting wrongs by singing songs, fighting crime by writing rhymes”. It is their boldness and tongue in cheek arrogance that allow the audience to embrace them and take us on their crazy kaleidoscopic, psychedelic journey.

As Gilgamesh Lockie Chapman is outstanding. Formerly a member of The Overtones, his rich, deep vocals become one of the many highlights of the show, especially during the Transhumanism song, which has more than a nod to Richard O’Brien’s Timewarp from the Rocky Horror Show. The entire show is backed by The Forgetables – a talented group of actor-musicians having enormous of fun under the musical directorship of Victoria Falconer, swapping costumes as fast as they can swap instruments. With synth bass lines and a moog they are a celebration of electro-pop. Julian Smith’s costume design is an explosion of iridescence and Michael Hankin’s set design verges on purposeful gaudiness as the stage is almost always swathed with large tinsel, cabaret-style drapes.

Insane Animals is a neon detonation of humour, make-up, high heels, hair spray and music. It is escapism beyond the normal dimensions of time, space, fashion and, occasionally, decency. As a piece of work it is sharp, and exquisitely performed. The numbers are catchy and one feels this could be a cult hit that, like The Rocky Horror Show did before them, could make its move to the mainstream..

Runs until 14th March 2020.

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The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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