New Dawn Fades at the Dancehouse


The Dancehouse is one of those Manchester venues you might have missed.  Even walking down Oxford Road, it is easy to just pass by.  But inside you’ll find a spacious, raked auditorium to seat 400, with great atmosphere.  And tonight it was full, the audience both knowledgable and appreciative, for New Dawn Fades, a play about Joy Division.

With band members coming from Manchester, Salford and Macclesfield, Joy Division are an integral part of the city’s musical history.  This play effectively weaves the story of Joy Division – the people, the places – into the history of the city.  It’s a nice touch.  The play is a mix of music, drama and storytelling, the story well told by Tony Wilson (Lee Joseph).

Photo: Shay Rowan

Taking centre stage is Ian Curtis, the actor Michael Whittaker crafting a complex portrait of the tortured man affected by epilepsy on stage and off, and really this play is his journey.  It’s a large cast of around ten, creating the band and the many business and artistic influences, every character interesting, some larger than life.  At the end of the first half the ‘band’ play Shadowplay from Granada Reports in 1978 and the mood changes to a gig.  In fact all the way through it’s half way between play and gig; if this play opens up a few non-theatregoers to the possibility of theatre that can only be a good thing.

Technically it’s pretty good.  Sound is more than good enough for the style of production, but it’s a large space and it’s hard to pull off music over a speaking actor.  Lighting is impressive.  There’s work to do on pace, and this production could have much more contrast between the high energy band and the tension between Ian and Debbie Curtis (played with great depth by Natalie Perry).  But overall it’s a very impressive performance, presented to an audience that on the whole knew the story well and had perhaps grown up in the places, and with the people of the play.

Whether you’re just interested in Manchester’s music history, or if Joy Division was an integral part of your life, this is a play well worth seeing.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

One Response to “New Dawn Fades at the Dancehouse”

  1. Andrew Wild says:

    Yes, saw this in a half-full 200-seat auditorium in Macclesfield. A pretty good production of what I thought was a fairly poor play. Lots to enjoy but too self-reverential by half.

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