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Reviews EdinburghNationalReviews Published 1 September 2016

Review: We Are Ian at Pleasance Dome

Pleasance Dome ⋄ 3 - 28 August 2016

Digestive biscuits and acid house: David Ralf reviews In Bed With My Brother at the Edinburgh Fringe.

David Ralf
We Are Ian at Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh.

We Are Ian at Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh.

It’s not really about Ian. It’s not about acid house, or ecstasy – it’s not even about doing the hot potato and the cold spaghetti over and over again. It’s about the ‘We’ – Nora Alexander, Kat Cory and Dora Lynn. They dance and they pull faces. They don’t speak.

They listen to Ian – whose voiceover pulses the intensity of a lightbulb (a beguiling visual way of representing audio which is also on show in Paper Bird’s cracking one-woman ‘caravan-specific’ show MOBILE), and hear how Ian thinks that they have nothing. “Fuck all.” He’s comparing their scene to his – the illegal rave culture that sprung up in the 80s – tunes, ecstasy and weekends spent in some disused warehouse.

Clowning company In Bed With My Brother have created an acid house scene reminiscent of that scene from Spaced with the white dungarees and hyperactive video design, but – decade blurring aside – they get the audience up on their feet just five minutes into We Are Ian, drawing us into their bigger and bigger takes on two immortal dance moves.

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The performers share digestive biscuits, a wilful misinterpretation of Ian’s throwaway mention of ‘brown biscuit’, and we watch them gurn and hug and dance again. Whether there’s an allergy issue involved in spraying half-chewed gobbets of digestive biscuits into an audience, I can’t be certain, but the grotesque chaos repeatedly feels purposefully childish, driven by both the attitude that being told about the Thatcher years instils in those who didn’t live through them, and as a foil to Ian’s at once patronising and encouraging response to their art – both telling them that it will come to an end, that they will have to grow up and get on with real life, and that he admires them, doing the ‘theatre stuff’, making things for themselves. It sits uncomfortably in the mind next to the cultural dearth he posits at the beginning of the piece. ‘Fuck all’ is a phrase which hangs over you, especially when your cultural landscape is being negatively compared to a derelict building and a borrowed soundsystem.

More charitably, Ian’s diagnosis is about disobedient art. He talks about the transition of acid house into the club scene, run just within the demands of the law (albeit by football hooligans and gangsters) and laments that it wasn’t the same.

We Are Ian doesn’t fit easily into a genre. I’m sure all of In Bed With My Brother’s work is disobedient in that small way. The fringe guide’s ‘Comedy’ and ‘Clown’ labels don’t come close. What was crowd control in the first five minutes becomes, or rather cunningly evokes, a genuine symbiosis between audience and performers. As the three of them dance on and on to exhaustion, ‘We’ cheer them, rouse them, join them. We have joined them. We recognise them (and perhaps something of Ian) in us. And the show effortlessly (dramaturgically, I mean – the sweat is pouring down their faces) makes dancing unceasingly until dawn a metaphor for three young women making art, getting tired, reaching out to people, and carrying on.

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David Ralf

David Ralf is a writer and critic in London. He won the Sunday Times Harold Hobson Award for reviewing at the ISDF in 2012, and the Kenneth Tynan Prize for his reviews for the Oxford Theatre Review in 2011. He draws pens and doodles at Pens by Pens.

Review: We Are Ian at Pleasance Dome Show Info


Produced by Torran McEwan

Written by In Bed With My Brother

Cast includes Kat Cory, Dora Lynn, Nora Alexander

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