New Dawn – A play about Joy Division and Manchester comes to the Leadmill. We interview The Writer and Director.
Talk me through the story and what you wanted to get out of this project?
It’s the story of how 4 ordinary Salford and Manchester lads, who channelled the anger and energy of a city, into 2 albums worth of classic songs. Their story is linked to the 2000 year old history of the city of Manchester, and how hope, desire, and ambition overcame tremendous adversity. Anger and rebellion propelling the city and the people forward. An ongoing struggle! What drives you to write the play? Anger, energy, and a love of the music. Plus a fascination of where the music and lyrics come from. Ian Curtis seemed to be channelling energy and knowledge from another dimension. I’d also like to make a living doing something I love! As a resident of Manchester now the influence of joy division is around us. I was interviewing John Robb and he showed me Joy Division bridge. What is your first memory of the band? I liked New Order in the 1980s, but I was never into music in general, except for film soundtracks. I love John Barry, and was always drawn to melancholic music, and New Order were perfect! I was vaguely aware they started as a different band, but I knew nothing about Joy Division until I moved to Manchester approx 10 years ago!
Who was your favourite member of the band and why? I don’t have a favourite. I think they functioned as a perfect unit. Each very individual, but united in a common aim. It’s how most art is created. A unique formula of different elements brought together by fate and destiny. Joy Division and New Order were meant to be. Ian Curtis, I think, would completely agree with this.
How heavy did the weight of responsibility hit you writing the play? Very much!! I seem to specialise in biographical stories (interlaced with artistic flights of fancy!). Dealing with real lives, and characters who are still living, is a huge responsibility. I have been extremely careful in getting the facts right, and making sure any fictional moments are based on probabilities (based on evidence, anecdotes, historical findings, etc.) Tony Wilson’s ex wife, Lindsay Reade, came to see the show, and (afterwards) said “Tony would have approved”. THAT was a wonderful moment! What does Manchester mean to you?
It can get a bit full of itself, but that’s just the marketing people! It’s been a hive of energy and innovation for hundreds of years, and there does seem an in-built rebellious nature against injustice. I am a great believer in psychogeography, and the theory that certain locations create specific feelings and energies. Manchester was founded by the Romans, and they chose carefully where they built their encampments and fortresses.
The reviews look amazing, what was the biggest challenge putting this all together? They ARE amazing!! We have been overwhelmed by the response from audiences (and critics). The biggest challenge was channeling the Joy Division ‘vibe’ to the stage, and communicating their power to an audience (on a pretty non-existent budget). We have never had any financial support, and are completely independent, meaning our artistic integrity is intact!
What projects do you have coming up next? I am currently performing ‘ONE MAN BOND: Every Bond Film In 60 Minutes’. It’s a one man show, which takes a massive amount of energy. But, it’s a dream project, and I love doing it. I am also working on a companion piece to New Dawn Fades, looking in more detail at the 1970s Manchester music scene. I am never bored!
New Dawn Fades – A Play About Joy Division and Manchester is produced by Giles Bastow and Brian Gorman. It’s written by Brian Gorman and Directed by Sean Mason and Giles Bastow.