It's a welcome return for a play that takes a look at the inception of one of our most loved and enigmatic bands, Joy Division. New Dawn Fades offers not only a great piece of theatre, but also a well-crafted insight into a story that continues to fascinate.
"In 2006, I moved from Chester to Salford, on Seaford Road, near Castle Irwell" recalls writer Brian Gorman "I am always interested in an area and its history, so I started reading up on the place. In the process I came across YouTube footage of Joy Division, and was blown away.
"I'd always liked New Order in the 1980s, and was vaguely aware they had once been a different band, but I had no knowledge of Joy Division, Ian Curtis, or their music" he admits "In no time, they were my favourite band! Then I discovered that Bernard and Hooky had grown up just a few streets away from where I was now living, and that the original Roman encampment had been founded in what was nearby Camp Street.
"I had been mulling over writing and drawing a graphic novel about Salford and Manchester, inspired by Bryan Talbot's award-winning Alice In Sunderland - in which he covered the entire history of Sunderland using Lewis Carroll's books as a starting point" he adds.
Although initially intended as a graphic novel, it soon became clear that the story belonged on the stage. The script manages to concisely frame the events and entertain without diluting any of the punch or emotion.
I ask Brian if the original graphic novel format aided the process and helped to create a compact and vibrant script... "Very much so" he responds "I had the equivalent of a film storyboard, and was able to visualise the stage show quite easily. Obviously, it would be nigh impossible to get all the characters onstage, along with the huge range of locations, but I had a great blueprint."
There is an overwhelming amount of material for Joy Division fans to get their teeth into when it comes to the life and art of Ian Curtis. This wealth of material means that any dramatisation has to be an accurate portrayal and that the story has to be handled with realism and sensitivity.
So, was casting Antony H Wilson, Peter Hook and co a difficult proposition? "Very difficult indeed! One has to be extremely careful when dealing with real-life characters, especially Ian Curtis and the tragic circumstances of his death.
"I was adamant I didn't want anybody simply trying to do an impression" Brian explains "I love Steve Coogan, but we really didn't want a humorous interpretation similar to 24 Hour Party People...I wanted actors who could play the parts as written, and perhaps channel some of the spirit of the characters, with the odd recognisable mannerism and body language. We were very lucky indeed with our cast..."
Antony H. Wilson acts as a guide as he narrates through the history of the band, and the history of Manchester. It's a clever device that brings the audience up to speed with a potted history of the region and the mood of the time. New Dawn Fades sets the scene and provides an authentic cultural landscape. It places the audience in the midst a gang of mates ready to take on the world.
Brian is delighted with the dramatisation of the seminal events; "I love the scene where Tony Wilson gets very excited about the sudden upsurge of punk bands in Manchester. He is ecstatic at the energy in the air, and believes a magnificent revolution is taking place, and that something very special is happening...
"...We then cut immediately to Hooky and Barney sitting around, bored senseless, and muttering about not being able to get any gigs without a singer" he adds "They then get a call regarding Barney's ad, and the whole scene is played so deadpan, and so matter-of-fact. I always find it hilarious how the guys play it, and it really illustrates how the truth behind the legend/myth can be so mundane. Magic can happen in the most uninspiring and lethargic places."
Many of the areas well known local music faces have been along to see the show. Rowetta and John Robb both loved it enough to attend more than once, and both provided positive reviews and quotes in endorsement of the play.
Whether you're a fully-paid-up expert on Warsaw, Joy Division and New Order, or a complete newbie, the play is highly relatable and offers something for everyone. New Dawns Fades celebrates a classic band that created timeless music. It masterfully evokes Salford and Manchester in the seventies whilst celebrating the undeniable Joy Division brilliance.
The popularity of this show has led to an extra date being added. Book early to avoid disappointment...
New Dawn Fades by Brian Gorman
Wednesday April 11th - Friday 13th
Manchester Dancehouse Theatre
To book tickets – click here
Ian Curtis will be played by Joseph Walsh
Tony Wilson - Alan Donohoe
Deborah Curtis - Leah Gray
Peter Hook - Bill Bradshaw
Martin Hannett - Sean Mason
Bernard Sumner - Nathaniel McCartney
Stephen Morris - Matthew Melbourne
Rob Gretton - Giles Bastow
See also previous Salford Star article about Brain Gorman's Joy Division graphic novel – click here
Words by Ian Leslie