Theatre Review: A New Brain

A story that will engage, some silliness, great songs and wonderful characters

Presented by: Davine Productions
Reviewed: 13 October, 2023

When I first heard about this show I wasn’t sure how anyone could make the story of a probably fatal brain injury into a happy show, would it be depressing, a bit of a downer? Well, the answer is no! This is a show filled with heart, witty lines, and the ability to draw the audience into its silly world.

Based on the real-life scary episode of the writer William Finn whose brain had an arteriovenous malformation leading to hospital and various medical treatments. Finn makes his lead character Gordon Schwinn autobiographical and the pieces in the show are the product of his relief at being able to write songs again.

Every character in this production is centred around Gordon. His Mother, his lover, his business manager and best friend, his employer, the nurses, the doctors, a hospital minister, and even a homeless person he has interacted with. David Gauci has assembled a very talented cast with no weak spots. Peter Johns is in charge of the music so you know it will be good and Shenyade Wilkinson-Sarti has choreographed to her usual high standard.

Daniel Hamilton makes a very believable Gordon even in his hallucinations. His employer Mr Bungee, a producer of children’s TV, makes his appearance in a frog suit in just one of those episodes. Adam Goodburn is hilarious in all of his scenes, and his fine voice is a great addition. Be Polite to Everyone is his solo and says much for the character. Gordon’ mother, played by Catherine Campbell, is every inch the Jewish mother. She will fix everything, even his brain. Her song in the second act, Throw it Out, where she throws out Gordon’s beloved books makes full use of her vocal skills. Lindsay Prodea is the dashing lover, his song Sailing is lovely, but his duets with Hamilton are even better especially Time.

The character of Rhonda is a perfect foil for Gordon, and Dee Farnell gives her all the quick answers. Lorenzo Ravida is great as the hospital minister, oblivious to the fact that Gordon is Jewish, Mark DeLaine outdoes himself as the sympathetic nurse Richard, camping it up and wearing outrageous clothes. He also adds to the vocal talent. The stunning voice of Lisa Simonetti, as the homeless woman, delivers the wonderful number Change at the beginning of the second act.

Other minor roles are played by Sophie Stokes, Jakob Caudle, Jess Wolfendale and Carly Meakin. They all do well and the chorus singing is great. In fact, the whole thing is great. A story that will engage, some silliness, great songs and wonderful characters. Opening night was full, it’s a short season so book soon or you may miss out.

Reviewed by Fran Edwards

Photo credit: supplied

Venue:Star Theatres, Theatre One
Season:13-21 October 2023

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