We Are Ian, VAULT Festival

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by guest critic Martin Pettitt

We enter into a long damp and dingy chamber, in the distance there is a flashing screen with 3 sets of legs beneath, feet bedecked in shoes with multi-coloured lights, gyrating and popping to the pronounced beat of the music. The screen blinks with various versions of the words: We Are Ian. In terms of stage set, that was it apart from a bulb hanging from the ceiling and a vast amount of digestive biscuits.

What follows is nearly an hour of tremendous fun in the most ridiculous, discombobulating but ultimately touching and life affirming way possible. The show is built around an interview by a mysterious person called Ian and his feelings on the 1990s Acid House Movement. Ian appears in the performance as a disembodied voice, represented only by a singular flashing light bulb. Our 3 characters are affected by everything he says, taking his words as a gospel to live by. They interpret his pronouncements throughout the performance in movement, dance, mime and clown with very little speech. The three work seamlessly together and you can see the bond between them; they seemed to have synthesised a position somewhere between the teletubbies and the 1990s band Technohead (rather niche reference but an apt one) and it is wonderful to watch.

The storytelling is subtle and well-paced as it builds slowly to a crescendo. Each action and movement is pertinent and meaningful, nothing is wasted. Throughout the performance the audience don’t get away with sitting quietly in the dark – they are pushed, pulled, hugged, spat on, and inevitability everything culminates with everyone flooding the performance space in a brilliant, bombastic rave. It’s great to see the transformation of curmudgeonly audience members beginning the show with arms folded and a look of disinterest and ending it with their arms reaching to the heavens the expression in their eyes quivering between joy and terror.

This is a tremendous experience made all the better by the fact it actually feels something is on the line. This isn’t a twee performance about a distant thing, it is right now. The setting at the Vaults was perfect – it’s dank, water drips down the wall and across the performance space, the floor is grimy and slippery underfoot, there is a stale smell from every surface. Pretty much, any nightclub I have ever been in. The performers starting the night in white overalls ended it caked in muck, sweat and broken biscuits, it feels like we go through through an endurance test as much as a performance.

This is a superb show, the only quibble I have is that sometimes the volume on Ian’s voice is too loud to hear the performers.

We Are Ian runs through 5 February.

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