Eight years ago, Belgian theatre-wreckers Ontrorend Goed unleashed a baker’s dozen of teenagers on the Edinburgh Fringe. Their show was titled Once and for All We’re Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up and Listen, and it presented an explosion of hormone-fuelled behaviour intended to confront and disrupt. Last year the far less assuming Islington Community Theatre took on a similar theme, with 10 teenagers of its own, drawn from their company, and a Wellcome Trust-approved pair of neuroscientists in tow, and their witty, considered and vital performance offers as much of the why as the what. To see a teenager, it posits, you not only have to shut up and listen, you have to dig a lot deeper.
Brainstorm is a theatrical MRI scan. Its young cast blends scientific explanation with personal exorcism. They put us in the classroom, snap a selfie, and then warp it into a confessional. They imitate their parents, then rip into them, then silently plead their love. They’re a mess of greedy synapses and overloaded endocrine systems, but, as they explain, they’re also as brilliant as they’ll ever be. It’s all downhill from there.