Brainchild

I’m not sure what I saw on Sunday. I’m really not. Never have I been so baffled by a Fringe show, so dumbfounded and (inconveniently for this article) lost for words. If I were to pigeonhole the show in an attempt to contain the unsettling effects of its chaos, I suppose I would call it ‘comedy theatre’, albeit comedy theatre at its most bizarre.

For all of Lees’ ostensible lunacy, there was a sense that he had some underlying mission. Was the whole show an absurdist metacriticism of theatre? Or was it just a bloke having a particularly elaborate laugh?

For one hour, we watched Dan Lees release his inner child. Surrounded by props, he dressed up as a bishop, a country singer and some kind of New Age spiritualist, playing ridiculous versions of these typically serious characters. There was music, there were puns, there were deliberately stilted impersonations – but nothing was predictable. Each segment of the show was as surprising as the last.

One consistency in Brainchild was the high level of audience interaction. We were part of the show from start to finish, whether that meant going on stage, singing along, or eating one of his Mini Cheddars. Through repeatedly embarrassing us in front of strangers, Lees seemed determined to take us out of our comfort zones, and he succeeded.

After the nonsense, the relentless farcicality, we were left to question – what was the point of all of that? What did that all mean, if anything? For all of Lees’ ostensible lunacy, there was a sense that he had some underlying mission. Was the whole show an absurdist metacriticism of theatre? Or was it just a bloke having a particularly elaborate laugh?

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe none of it matters. Maybe Lees wants us to think it matters, even though he knows it doesn’t. Maybe he wants us to realise that it doesn’t matter after thinking at first that it does matter, so that we come to think that things that seem to matter don’t matter after all.

I don’t know. In any case, we were entertained – and maybe it’s as simple as that.

Reviews by Joshua Feldman

Marlborough Theatre

The Room in the Elephant

★★★★
The Warren: Theatre Box

Both Worlds

★★★★
The Warren: Main House

Animal Farm

★★★
The Warren: Theatre Box

Brainchild

★★★
The Warren: Theatre Box

Everything That's Wrong with the Universe

★★★★
The Dukebox Theatre

All Change

★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

An award-winning show that veers from the profound to the ridiculous, introducing a host of inspiring characters, from a cheese-loving pope to a lonely cowboy with only a goldfish for a friend. Directed by Mick Barnfather (Complicite). Judges Award for Theatre winner, Mimetic Festival 2014. “Downright hilarious ... deserves to be commended for challenging the boundaries and creating an unforgettable experience” (Broadway Baby). “Happily bonkers” (Time Out). “Dan is the real deal” (Phil Burgers).