ComedyFringe & FestivalsReviewSouth West

We Are Ian – The Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter

Devised and performed by: In Bed With My Brother
Reviewer: Chris White

As From Devon with Love continues this week at the Bike Shed Theatre, In Bed with My Brother premiere their brand new show We Are Ian; a euphoric, chaotic and fantastically funny piece about the UK Acid House movement in the late eighties and early nineties.

In Bed with My Brother – the current graduate company at the Bike Shed – is made up of Kat Cory, Dora Lyn and Nora Alexander; three Exeter University graduates who continue to make work in the South West.

In their new show the company is telling the story of their mate, Ian, who used to DJ at the height of ‘Madchester’. Ian appears as a kind of omnipotent narrator or instructor, through a series of very personable and genuine verbatim recordings. Physically, he’s manifested in the form of a lightbulb overhanging the stage which pales and glows in rhythm with Ian’s voice. This very simple device establishes Ian as a God-like but tangible figure whose story is not so much told but discovered by the company – they’re drawn to him like moths to a – well, like moths to a lightbulb.

Without ever uttering a word Nora, Dora and Kat create three fantastic characters; they start off excitable, beaming and naïve, trying to instigate a party with the audience, and trying in earnest to understand and replicate an acid house rave. But as the piece develops the three women become vessels for both Ian’s story and the music they’ve discovered – almost possessed at times into synchronised movement, frantic gestures and the feverish consumption of biscuits.

The genius of the show is its apparent lack of control; though they begin hopeful the company is soon catapulted into the euphoric highs and catastrophic come-downs that optimise the age – but they keep on smiling throughout, even as we discover that Ian is not perhaps infallible, and certainly not a god – they try their upmost to keep the party going, and it’s almost as tragic as it is hilarious.

This is definitely a show in development, with a lot of room to grow. On the way out the audience is invited to fill out feedback forms and the company were extremely welcoming to the audience response. If the piece is to develop further, IBWMB will have to think more about the relationship between themselves, the audience, and Ian. The audience interaction, for example, was one of the shows’ strongest points – though not always everyone’s cup of tea, once we were shown a few simple dance moves to follow and given a can of larger each, we were basically on-board. The company create a fantastic atmosphere onstage, and need to push the audience further to join them on their voyage of discovery. But the premise and execution of the show is incredibly strong, and absurdly original, and it will be great to see how the piece grows through development.

The company creates a fantastic atmosphere onstageand need to push the audience further to join them on their voyage of discovery. But the premise and execution of the show is incredibly strong, and absurdly original, and it will be great to see how the piece grows through development.

The company is clearly a talented group; the humour in the show is brilliantly executed, and their use of movement – through dance, gesture and a good deal of lip-syncing – is absolutely spot on. The multimedia used throughout the show is also vital; the graphics are hilarious, atmospheric and – when telling the audience to stand or to dance – helpfully instructional. The recordings of Ian often blend beautifully into the music (a carefully selected playlist from Ian’s own collection, which ranges from The Happy Mondays to New Order) and there’s a dizzying contrast between the very intimate, revealing recordings of Ian and the overwhelming use of bassy, punctuating house music.

All in all, We Are Ian is an incredibly original, upbeat and exuberant show; not just an education in the House Movement, but something so much more visceral – a very genuine and uplifting experience. Though the company still have a few wrinkles to iron out in the early stages of their show, their relentlessness energy and ideas are what make We Are Ian an unmissable piece of theatre.

Runs until 29 January 2016 | Image: Contributed

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