New Dawn Fades

14 April
Dancehouse Theatre

The life story of Ian Curtis and his band, Joy Division, has gained almost mythic status in Manchester, but that doesn’t mean it can’t inspire contemporary culture going forward. New Dawn Fades came to The Dancehouse on 14 April, a play written by Brian Gorman which revisits the narrative many know about Joy Division, but with humour, heart and a unique perspective. The production was set up like an episode of Granada Reports, with Tony Wilson as our guide (played with enigmatic flair by Lee Joseph), dipping into the deep past – all the way back to the city’s Roman origins of Mamucium – while interacting with the present audience through live music and laughs.

Manchester has the power to pull us through time, and this play was testament to that notion. As producer Giles Bastow reflected, “Whether you believe in the supernatural or not, it is without doubt that the spirit of a place or area remains. It’s of course incredibly important to look forward, but in order to do that you must take the knowledge of the past with you.”

In putting the past before our eyes, Bastow has carefully co-ordinated history into the here and now. We see The Sex Pistols’ infamous 1976 concert, the Joy Division performance of ‘Transmission’ on TV, and even Curtis’ suicide. Like an episode of Granada Reports, the play is crafted to keep a modern audience informed. So much has happened in Manchester and here is another example of biography meeting brilliance. Most of the crew members are themselves from the area and it certainly showed that the city’s past helps create a path for the present.

Emily Oldfield