Home Theatre; Friday 13th October 2017
Ian Taylor is a 46-year-old former DJ and painter & decorator from Manchester. Back in 1989 Ian was genuinely mad-for-it, all over the acid-house / rave scene. Since then it’s all gone to shit, everything has, and Ian isn’t happy; but every time he reminisces about the good old days his spirits lift, this is a guy who clearly made the most of the good times while they lasted.
Exactly how Ian became friends with Nora, Dora and Kat (a.k.a. Exeter-based theatre company In Bed With My Brother) is a bit of a mystery – they hadn’t even been born in 1989. Yet this friendship has led to We Are Ian – an incredible 45-minute-long theatrical outburst that plunges anyone old enough to remember it straight back into an era that was, as Ian insists, a seriously good time to be young.
Ian is represented on stage by a single light bulb hung from the ceiling. As his gnarly Mancunian voice emerges from the darkness reciting story after story of how good it was back in the day, the light bulb glows and flickers, like some kind of primitive transmitter of 1980s Manc nostalgia. Every time Ian speaks there is revered silence: Nora, Dora and Kat gather under the bulb transfixed, with terrifying expressions of shock and disbelief as Ian offers his thoughts on what was happening back in those days.
The real magic of this show starts as soon as Ian stops speaking: suddenly an 80’s house / rave classic sets the entire room shaking and Nora, Dora and Kat instantly launch into a frenzy of wild dancing that would normally take the average human being 7 or 8 drinks to get close to pulling off. The choice of music is just excellent (a playlist is available on Spotify), listening to the voice of a washed-up old Mancunian crank banging on about the good old days and then suddenly being shaken in your seat by Mr Fingers’ Can You Feel It is just such an uplifting and hilarious experience.
This is theatre that doesn’t actually go anywhere, there is no plot or script. Just three mad-for-it dancers who are having it large, all orchestrated by Ian and his extravagant tales of how football hooligans were so fucked on ecstasy in 1989 that they’d all just chill out and stop fighting each other.
Things take a serious turn when the voice and image of Margaret Thatcher appear, insisting she’ll do what she can to shut down these illegal raves that threaten to corrupt the youth of the day. Ian pinpoints this as the moment that the fun stopped, and how it’s been in decline ever since.
There must be hundreds of “80’s” nights in bars and clubs all over the country every weekend, but this beats any of them. You can dress up in up in your old school uniform and dance to Kylie for a laugh with you mates and call that a 80s night but, amazingly, We Are Ian takes the concept much deeper, genuinely capturing the emotion and feeling of youth getting together to have a good time, sticking two fingers up to “the establishment”, whoever that might be. We Are Ian captures the spirit and the essence of those occasionally amazing nights out that you just can’t explain. And because it captures it so well, it becomes an amazing night out in itself.
And then there’s the “fucking brown biscuits”. Obviously a source of much nostalgic amusement for Ian, the sight of Nora, Dora and Kat spewing them everywhere and throwing them at the audience, to the point where we all had to brush the crumbs out of our hair, our clothes, even our shoes; it all worked, it’s the kind of random stupid thing that would happen on a legendary night out.
At the end of the show the entire audience was invited up on stage. This was better fun than any bar in Manchester. I can’t have been the only one who spent the entire 45 mins with a stupid grin on my face.
Given the subject matter and location, We Are Ian constitutes a lot more than just a decent piece of theatre: this show seems to explain Manchester, you can’t write an academic essay about a city, all you can do is show people aspects of it and let them experience it, let them decide. We Are Ian seems to be the best explanation of Manchester that I’ve ever come across.
I’m not the only one who’s noticed that Theatre 2 at Home seems to have consistently hosted the most entertaining theatrical spectacles in Manchester this year, this one (literally) takes the biscuit.