New Dawn Fades – review of new play about Joy Division
In the stifling heat and the stifling emotions it hits you. New Dawn Fades is a spellbinding and brilliant pay based on a yet to be published graphic novel about one of the greatest bands of all time..I totally urge anyone left out there who believes in music to be so much more to go and see it…Mon 15th July 2013
‘NEW DAWN FADES – The Story Of Joy Division’ is a new play by writer/actor Brian Gorman (recently seen playing Leon in a new stage adaptation of cult 1980s sci-fi blockbuster, ‘Blade Runner’; which had a sell-out run at The Lass O’Gowrie earlier this month): he claims that “It’s a classic story of 4 ordinary lads who, inspired by the punk revolution of the 1970s, came together to form one of the most influential bands of all time. Lead singer Ian Curtis’ suicide in 1980, and the band’s transformation into the hugely successful New Order, has been chronicled in two recent movies, ‘Control’ and ‘Twenty Four Hour Party People’, as well as a critically-acclaimed documentary. My stage version combines the band’s history with the city of Manchester (and Salford!), taking inspiration from Curtis’ enigmatic lyrics, and involving many real-life characters such as Roman General Julius Agricola (who built the miltary encampment in the 5th century AD that would one day become the Manchester we know now), Dr John Dee (Elizabeth the First’s adviser), Johnny Rotten, Karl Marx, and Frederich Engels.”
There is the known and there is the unknown and there is a strange pleasure in watching yet another dusting down of the eternal myth that is so much part of the identity of Manchester from a long lost timezone.
New Dawn Fades is some experience…it’s the Joy Division myth done as a play in a tiny upstairs room of the legendary Lass A Gowrie pub in Manchester city centre. 20 people watch ten people tell the story in a hot, claustrophobic space that adds to the intense atmosphere that surrounds the band with an added surrealism and depth.
Not that it’s without humour, there is the late and great Tony Wilson played out in all his camp and brilliant pretension, making you laugh out loud to his fantastic madness and lovable warmth- it’s a touch more Steve Coogan than Tony W but what else would the young cast know? and it does make your heart ache for the Wilson madness and misty eyed at his memory.
The band themselves are now set in stone in their roles, Hooky is the thug with a heart of gold, Barney the insecure arty one, Steve the shy and quiet one and Ian Curtis the romantic dreamer with an added backdrop of domestic drudgery and grayness which is so central to this story- (although there is one very telling scene after the Sex Pistols gig where all the boys decide what instruments they are going to play and Debbie Curtis says ‘I’m a girl- I don’t play anything…) . It’s the mundanity of the backdrop that made Joy Division so special, there is one great scene where the long suffering Debbie is hanging up Y fronts on a washing line- the same washing line that months later the singer will hang himself on , whilst they chat about dreams clashing with normal life- this was the deadly dark heart of the band- their very northernness and their powerful vision clashing in the post punk fallout and the surrounding half crazed lunatics who realised it.
Lunatics like brilliantly played Martin Hannet that captures the visionary producer and sound sculptor perfectly and reminds me of hanging out with him trying to make an insane music TV programme years ago, there is band manger the bluff but loveable Rob Gretton driving things along in a blunt and forthright and zero showbiz manner, there is the aforementioned Wilson mixing Mancunian history into the narrative like interviewing a Roman general on the local new programme before speaking to John Dee the alchamist who lived in Manchester- this historic stuff is fantastic and it’s important that the radical nature of the city from its history to its music is put into a focus.
The acting is great, taking difficult subject matter and making it believable in a pub room and the whoever plays Ian Curtis has lost themselves totally in the part- even singing acoustic and bongo versions of Joy Division songs perfectly ( believe me, acoustic Joy Division really works!).
This is a fantastic play that justifies another trip into the interzone…