We Are Ian

There’s something both hilarious and poignant about the dynamic between younger and older generations, the way in which the older relate the tales of their own youth to younger naive ears, the way we are nostalgic for eras we never lived in and the way in which history often repeats itself. We Are Ian takes its audience with an unrelenting burst of energy and colour through the highs and comedowns of the story of the cohort that came of age during the Acid House revolution of the mid-to-late 1980s. At the height of free parties, adolescent rebellion and musical innovation, rave culture (and the associated paraphernalia) brought a sense of belonging and unity to young communities whose very bonds were breaking under Thatcher’s tightening fist.

A rousing rallying cry for resistance and a laugh-out-loud feel-good dance comedy, We Are Ian is unmissable.

Using very little, sparse dialogue, most of which comes from highly intimate recordings of friend of the performers and former house DJ Ian Taylor, In Bed With My Brother manage to convey with a great emotional intensity, and through profound symbolism, what the House movement really meant for those alive at the time. Ian is represented as a flickering lightbulb to which the three actors look up, responding to his words with ludicrous facial expressions and evocative movement. Kat Cory, Dora Lynn and Nora Alexander have an electrifying dynamic, communicating smoothly as an ensemble while retaining distinct, loveable personalities. They convey and interact far more with movement, physicality, and facial expressions than most people can with words; from ecstatic exhilaration to fear and anger. Because the piece is clearly devised by its performers about their friend, without a distant, alienated director, the result is an air of warmth and sincerity that pervades the show from start to finish.

The show’s lighting and sound design provide a pulsing, irresistible energy from the outset, from flashing colourful lights and screens, hilarious bubbling writing, to immaculately edited, powerful black and white montages of Thatcher’s cabinet and 80s raves. Golden era House classics reverberate around the theatre, which all of a sudden turns into Manchester’s hottest club as audience members get up and dance, letting us feel for ourselves the communal bliss of the forefathers of House. However, the production also uses silence and stillness to great effect, conjuring either an arresting solemnity or a riotously funny tension.

The politics of We Are Ian are clear, uncompromising and resonant. Interlaced with footage of Thatcher and Reagan as the former clamps down on free parties, on the big screen on the stage wall is some of Theresa May and Donald Trump. Though 30 years ago a youth movement rallied against its socioeconomic reality, as Ian eloquently puts it, today, we have ‘fuck all’. Undeniably similar ideologies are at play, yet we have not responded with the same innovation, and the youth until recently have been pessimistic, disenfranchised and divided. Though In Bed With Your Brother’sapparent conclusion that a big party may be the answer to crippling austerity and the cliff-edge that is Brexit is questionable, turning The Iron Lady’s voice into a house remix symbolically and hilariously showed the defiance an organised youth movement, and art itself, can show against injustice.

A rousing rallying cry for resistance and a laugh-out-loud feel-good dance comedy, We Are Ian is unmissable. For the older, it may be a trip down memory lane and for the younger, a mad party and an important history lesson, as well as an answer to the question ‘where did all our legendary nightlife go?’. Consider this a rave review. 

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The Blurb

It’s 1989. Manchester. A frenzy of drugs, beats and bucket hats. Illegal raves and acid parties. Jumping up and down in a field and throwing two fingers to Thatcher… Remember it? Cus we don’t. We weren’t even born. But Ian was. Ian remembers. Ian reckons we’ve got fuck all now. So let’s go back to the 80’s, neck a brown biscuit and bounce around like idiots. Ian’s gonna show us how… The award-winning cult hit of 2016 is back. ‘Be Ian, be you, but really just be in this audience’ ***** (AYoungerTheatre.com)