Reviewer: Kate Harvey
Leave your reservations at the door and indulge in a bit of mindless escapism, We Are Ian leaves room only for a euphoric acid house danceathon that will make Margaret Thatcher turn in her grave.
It begins with three young women. They are dressed in white overalls, hair knotted on top of their heads. It appears they are in pre-rave purgatory: terrified, childlike and unsure of their fate. That is, until, the music kicks in and the voice of Ian takes centre stage. Ian takes the appearance of a glowing light bulb that dangles down in front of the characters, as he begins to let us in on a secret and lament his glory days. This strange means of communication and use of multimedia is to be commended for its structural value; the crackling voice recordings perfectly balance out the characters as they oscillate between synchronicity and hysteria.
Soon enough, the audience is plunged into the clandestine Manchester rave scene of the late eighties and early nineties – complete with pills (digestive biscuits), thrills, and bellyaches. As the show goes on, we discover that Ian is an acid house veteran from the days of Haçienda, a witty Mancunian character and narrator incumbent of the underground scene. We’re even lucky enough to delve into his record collection of Happy Mondays and Lennie De Ice. The three on stage propagate his speech by raving non-stop from start to finish – his words are sacred for his dancing disciples.
Nora Alexander, Kat Cory and Dora Lyn do an excellent job of embodying the universal mind control of dance music as they comically contort their faces beyond recognition. Impressively, they need not utter a word – Alexander, Cory and Lyn express themselves perfectly well with frenetic choreography and biscuit-scoffing that truly redefines the notion of ‘twisting your melon, man’. It’s not pretty, it’s certainly not conventional, but this performance is fiercely creative.
Despite its absurdity, for a brief moment We Are Ian appears to be surprisingly political. There is a noticeable lull in the audience when Ian’s stories are drowned out by the sound of Margaret Thatcher’s damning rhetoric and a projection of her face. Admittedly at this point, the multimedia seems a little confused. While this jarring effect is probably deliberated, the nature of the show means that there is plenty of scope for tweaking. It chimes in well, however, with Ian’s sad contention: “we’ve got f*** all, now”. To numb the sting of Thatcherite austerity, the serotonin-inducing soundtrack ensues and the three performers encourage the audience to join them on stage and dance like lunatics.
The force of this show transcends beyond the stage, and the power is now in the audience’s hands. Will they continue Ian’s legacy of hedonism and anti-establishment? Is it still relevant today? We Are Ian will resonate loud and clear to a variety of audiences as it asks all of our burning questions about mainstream culture. The surprise element of audience participation is what turns this production from something with mere potential into a great addition to this year’s Fringe lineup. To conclude the renaissance of illegal partying, this show leaves the audience with a bold message: ‘don’t think – just dance’.
We Are Ian is a great choice for those of you who are already feeling a little merry. Catch it at the Pleasance Dome.
Runs until 28 August 2016