Changing the tune

When brother and sister alien cabaret duo Bourgeois and Maurice were forced off the stage they decided to record an album and it took on a life of its own

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The opening song of Insane Animals, the musical that premiered early last year at Manchester’s Home venue, is about the many ways that humanity could come to an end and yes – a deadly pandemic is mentioned.

“We wrote it before Covid,” George Heyworth is quick to point out. He remembers arriving back in London after the show had finished its Manchester run only to find the capital was a ghost town. “The reality of the situation really hit home,” he says. “The pandemic had exploded around us, but we’d had this sort of tunnel vision, writing and performing a musical about the end of humanity without even realising the significance of that.”

Heyworth is one half of Bourgeois and Maurice, and together with Liv Morris, the pair have been gaining rave reviews for their act, which they describe as “a brother and sister alien cabaret duo”, for more than 13 years now. Last year came a breakthrough in their career when they were commissioned by Manchester’s Home to develop and perform Insane Animals – a camp, over the top, large-scale musical that blew audiences away during its initial run.

In the show the intergalactic pair arrive on Earth and decide to help humanity understand itself better in an effort to avert oncoming disasters. They do this, explains Morris, “by telling a story, the first story ever told, the tale of Gilgamesh. And from then on it’s essentially a show within a show as the story of Gilgamesh unfolds and then is tweaked in a very meta way.”

The show was a massive leap forward for them in terms of the scale of work.

“We were lucky in that we completed the whole run of the show,” says Morris. “We finished on 14 March and Home closed its doors 48 hours later. But the plan was that the play was always going to go somewhere else. It was such a massive thing that it would be a shame for it not to come back on stage, especially for Home because it was such a big investment for them and I’m sure they’d like to make some money back on it if they can!”

While the stage version of the show is now on hold, the pair were able to reassemble the cast last year to record an album version that has just been released. Pulling Insane Animals Original Cast Recording together was something of a logistical puzzle. The music was set down by the show’s musical director Victoria Falconer and her partner Jarrad Payne over in their studio in Australia. Then the vocals were done in London by small groups of the cast when such gatherings were allowed. And once the vocal tracks were complete, the whole thing went back to Australia for final mixing. The result is a recording that works both as a series of standalone tracks but also as a complete narrative, replete with some extracts of the script to carry the story forward.

The album, Morris says, has grown in production into a thing in its own right. “We had limitations on stage in terms of instruments and the number of voices that we could have at any one point. The album allowed us to make the sound that we had always wanted, so it’s evolved.”

There’s also a playful exploration of the history of music to go along with the storyline about the history of humanity, explains Heyworth. “At the beginning of the album we use analogue instruments and then it becomes more digital and it grows as the album goes on. There is something really nice about sticking it on at the beginning and listening through to the end.”

Heyworth, 37, and Morris, 38, met at university while studying drama. Their alter egos Bourgeois and Maurice came about, says Heyworth, “with Liv and I being massively frustrated with not performing so we went to an open mic night in Soho to try out the characters and songs, choosing a name on the spot that no one could spell or pronounce, not thinking that 13 years later that we would still have it. It all happened very organically.”

Apart from the brief reassembling of the cast for the album, lockdown has meant Heyworth and Morris putting away their alter egos for the time being and dealing with lockdown life.

Morris says: “I miss being that character where I get to play around with different personalities and I really miss the cast of Insane Animals. They were such an amazing group of people and working in a group was a new experience for us. That kind of camaraderie we had – I can’t wait for it to come back.”

The most challenging aspect of lockdown however has been the inability to plan ahead. Both are keen to make plans about what happens next with the stage show, but that’s not possible right now.

“It’s really hard to talk to any venues about putting on performances in the future because no one can commit to anything,” says Morris.

And another thing they miss is singing, says Heyworth. “I really miss it as a means of self-expression. It’s very good for you, singing, and I’ve been singing all the time for about 13 years and then lockdown happened. I was driving the other day on my own and the radio was on. I started singing along and was just belting out a tune. I realised that I just haven’t had any context to do that – I live in a flat and you can’t do that when you’ve got neighbours on all sides. I felt so happy at the end of it. When we’re performing, we sing and we dance and those are physical things that affect your mental health and I really miss that.”

Insane Animals Original Cast Recording is available on music streaming services (

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