Brighton FringeDramaReviewSouth East

BRIGHTON FRINGE: We are Ian – Komedia

Devisers: In Bed With My Brother

Reviewer: Sophie Huggins

Stepping into the Komedia space is as though stepping into a funky coloured, party scented, beat pumping time machine, whizzing back to a year synonymous with 80s culture, when strikes were rife, when the Berlin Wall came down and when Maggie Thatcher reigned: 1989.

Taking it back is a troublesome trio dressed in innocently charming white painter’s overalls with statement light up shoes. The performers, from In Bed With My Brother, after a surprising and strong entrance, come across a dangling light bulb above their heads that remarkably sparks to life each time a male northern voice grumbles out of it. This is protagonist Ian and through his verbatim words, the threesome’s playful clowning and outrageous dancing and old footage projected onto screens, the audience become immersed in the world Ian once knew. There are intelligent parallels drawn between those times and today’s eerily similar climate through a change into modern clips, which doesn’t render entirely necessary as it could be left for the audience to make the connection themselves.

Known as Nora, Dora and Kat, all three of the performers are hilariously spontaneous, reacting live with their audience and all have a distinctive clown-quality that makes them a charismatic and absorbing sight when all together. Their relentless energetic dancing is a credit to them as devisors as they certainly chose no easy path when creating this piece. Their play is an utter joy to watch and the energy, commitment and wonder they bring to Ian’s words is what makes this production extraordinarily unusual from other immersive experiences. With such a bouncing vivacious start, the storytelling does dissipate slightly more in the second half, placing more reliance on Ian’s words, but due to the strong setup, this slower turn of pace is perhaps welcome.

The music, by Jimi Stewart, Ben Hudson and Bizarre Rituals is sensational and is completely hypnotic in revising the atmosphere of the acid house movement – there is no question of whether or not the party in the basement of this Brighton building is real. The lighting, by Ellie Bookham, is also entirely appropriate and fantastically vibrant, evoking notions of intense rave and vivid rebellion.

One of the central successes to this delightful production is the relationship between the stage and the seats and how often the gap is closed up. The trio simultaneously treat the audience as fascinating exotic creatures and old-time raving mates and this mature knowledge and understanding of who the spectators are is vital so the audience can then know their place, their part and their stake in the story. There is a familiarity from the beginning and the audience participations thus feel integral to the storytelling as oppose to a fancy add on.

As a show that can only be described as a pumping immersive rainbow, it has a suitable running (or dancing) time of 50 minutes and is a non-stop, creatively crafted, uplifting piece of theatre that has resounding relevance. If like many, 1989 existed before you did, then this piece can not only serve as a transporting machine back to those times, but it serves as an accentuator of current times too.

Reviewed on 31 May 2o17 | Image: Contributed

 

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