Brainstorm

Recent studies in education suggest that the two best ways for students to boost their educational development (by eight months in each case) are immediate feedback from a teacher and an understanding of metacognitive processes, or how the learning brain works. This makes the operation of the teenage brain (yes parent body, teenagers do actually have a brain) a particularly hot topic at present and something that Brainstorm seeks to exploit in what is essentially a franchise operation.

At its best when it goes deeper and darker – that’s when we really get true glimpses of a teenage brainstorm

Ned Glasier and Emily Lim are Artistic Directors of Company Three, a London based company prioritising youth theatre. They have worked with neuroscientists to turn the various neural aspects and processes of the teenage brain into the skeleton of a play. This offers young drama groups a scientific foundation on which they can graft (in workshop and drawing on their own experiences) flesh to create a unique production about teenage thinking. In this version, independent girls’ school Croydon High School have employed Madeleine Corner, daughter of a former Geography teacher at the School and a recent directing graduate, to work with their sixth formers, the Ivy Players, in developing scenes that connect aspects of teenage life with those of the teenage brain.

The outcome is akin to Jill’s Gymkhana or Malory Towers - if Hogwarts had a girls’ house, this would be it, all pillows and pyjamas and sleepovers with late night gossip. Don’t let Matron find out. The jaunty gals tell us how much they like Tom Holland’s bottom (the sort of sexism that is ‘okay’ because it targets boys and not girls) before leading some fun rounds of audience participation in a schoolgirly game of ‘I Never Did’. “Look at us” they keep on saying. “Look at us”. And find out what? That teenage girls have messy rooms, like loud music, spend time glued to their phones, argue with their parents, are interested in Love Island. I can’t say I’m surprised.

But look deeply at us and just occasionally there is a glimpse of something much more interesting. How wonderful it would be to see this explored further. One character says “this is how to become a perfect Indian daughter”. What does that mean? What do you feel about it? Another says “my brain is like a bedroom. I don’t want my parents coming in all the time”. Really? What do you not want them to see? Lots of the performers speak of sharing a room with a brother or sister – counterintuitive in a school whose fees are nearly £20,000 a year. What’s the story behind that? We are told that only three of the girls can sleep when their mum is not at home. Wow. There’s an insight into the workings of their teenage minds. The girls seem obsessed with their parents and spend half the show imitating them. This becomes a bit of an in-school joke at times but why are they doing it?

The whole thing is very girly, surprisingly watchable and quite good fun, although please leave me out of the audience participation next time. But Brainstorm is at its best when it goes deeper and darker – that’s when we really get true glimpses of a teenage brainstorm.

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The Blurb

A loud, vibrant and unashamed examination of what it’s like to be a teenager, exploring those years that change us the most. Drawing upon the life experiences of the cast, interwoven with cognitive neuroscientist Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore’s research, we combine scientific analysis with funny, brave and honest accounts. Devised by an all-female cast from Croydon High and directed by Maddy Corner (She, Trade), Brainstorm punctuates science with art and feeling. The Ivy Players return to Edinburgh Fringe after their previous four-star show, She. Brainstorm is an acclaimed production that once again puts young people and their stories centre-stage.

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