BRAIN MATTER(S) / Fen'Harel Theatre

Are you right-brained or left-brained? The two performers in the physical theatre production Brain Matter(s) take on the roles of one person’s interconnected brain as they struggle together to negotiate the challenges of life.

The idea that our brains' hemispheres take separate responsibility for emotion and rationality, confidence and doubt, anger and self-control, is one that brain-training gadgets and airport self-help books would love us to buy into. Brain Matter(s) deftly plays on these notions in the actors’ entertaining dialogue and choreography. The two halves are sometimes fitted snugly together as one, but at other times tumble, balance and fight, like an angel and devil warring for control of the one body.

There is some scientific basis to the belief that the two halves of the brain have different specialist functions. It first gained traction in the 19th century when French neurologists Marc Dax and Paul Broca realised that patients who had lost the ability to speak had all sustained damage to the left-hand side of their brain.

Broca’s area is still the name for the functional region in the brain’s left frontal lobe relating to speech production – although it’s sometimes found in the right frontal lobe of left-handed people, just to confuse anyone hoping for a clear-cut two-sided arrangement.

But this finding hints at the truly interesting aspect of brain hemispheres, and the focus of current neuroscience. Do the two halves process information differently? And how do they work together to produce all the complexities of human ability and behaviour? 

The staging of Brain Matters allows plenty of contemporary thinking about such issues. The female performer takes the more rational, ambitious persona, while the male performer is emotional and impulsive.

Another modern notion in neuroscience is that the specialism in our hemispheres gives us more ability to multitask. This production draws on all the performers’ skills to bring us new thinking on the old left-brain right-brain divide. (RM)

Brain Matter(s) ran at Venue 13 until August 27th - 

The myth of left and right brains:

Marc Dax and Paul Broca and the discovery of the speech area of the brain:

Broca’s specialist language area explained:

The advantages of having lateral speciality in your brain - multitasking: