Review: Insane Animals

Cabaret artists Bourgeois & Maurice in a world premiere musical production

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Cult cabaret artists Bourgeois & Maurice have been preforming together on stage since 2007, and up until now have been known for their quirky two-handed shows full of dark humour and songs. Insane Animals is their first foray into something bigger. Much, much bigger.

First off, this is definitely one of the shows that is best seen with absolutely no prior information at all, so if you are a fan of this duo and don’t need much convincing to go and see this, get your tickets booked now and stop reading. Trust me. It’s brilliant.

Still here? All right, I’ll tell you a little bit more. If you have ever seen Bourgeois & Maurice on stage then the opening ten minutes of this new show, developed at Home in Manchester, feels and looks pretty familiar. Maurice’s massive beehive? Tick. Sparkly costumes? You betcha. A tongue-in-cheek song about humanity’s ability to wreak destruction upon itself and the inventible end of the world as we know it? Oh yeah! But what follows next is… well… joyous, utterly bonkers and as camp as anything you will probably see this year. Or any year.

Bourgeois & Maurice have always been other worldly, but here they go full on alien visitor, arriving on Earth having noticed that things are a bit messed up. They come with a message of hope. Or so they say.

They then start to narrate the story of Gilgamesh, the historical Sumerian king from ancient Mesopotamian mythology and apparently one of the first written stories in history. And that’s when the insanity really kicks in.

It’s basically a version of Bourgeois & Maurice’s usual performances, but magnified by a thousand both visually and aurally, hung on a musical about Gilgamesh’s quest for immortality. Along the way, we get to consider topics such as social power structures, celebrity and our modern day obsession with all things technological. Fourth walls are shattered, songs are sung, and by the end of it all the audience is up and dancing.

The production itself is first rate. The sound and music are electrifying. The vocal performances verge on the operatic at times. Michael Hankin’s set is perfect, part school play, part West End musical.

If there are any niggles, you could say the story sometimes gets in the way of the fun. And running at around two hours (plus an interval), some might feel the whole thing could take a bit of a cut. Personally though, I loved every second of it. Also it should be noted that Bourgeois & Maurice’s trademark comedy nihilism and adult humour remain intact. This is the duo who once did a song about Chem Sex parties and it’s fair to say this show is probably not suited to children or those of an easily offended disposition – one particularly prescient moment about someone dying a slow death from a mystery virus is either superbly dark or a tad insensitive given the current news stories, depending on your point of view.

Insane Animals is brought to the stage in all its vivid madness thanks to Home’s T1 Commission project, which aims to bring artists used to playing smaller venues, onto the main stage with a bigger production values and a bigger budget to boot. Following a national call out that received over 100 applications, Bourgeois & Maurice were selected to be the first awarded the commission, and it was clearly the right choice. The performance and the performers rightly deserve a wide audience and here’s hoping Insane Animals survives the on-coming apocalypse so it can be seen on many more stages and by many more people in the future.

Insane Animals is at Home, Manchester until 14 March.

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