In Haunt

The TJ Davidson Rehearsal Studios captured some of the most cutting-edge sounds of the Manchester underground in the ‘70s and ‘80s–  providing a practice space for the likes of Joy Division, The Fall, Buzzcocks and The Drones: to name just a few. Located inside what was Knott Mill on Little Peter Street, it was here the iconic music video for Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ was shot. Now the man behind the studios – Tony Davidson himself – has joined the production team of the highly-anticipated 'NEW DAWN FADES: A Play About Joy Division & Manchester', in a move that is set to make this powerful piece of theatre more impactful than ever as it begins a three-week UK tour this month. Manchester audiences can see it at The Dancehouse on the 12-14 September.

By Shay Rowan

Tony Davidson’s backing of the play seems all the more apt, given that 2019 marks forty years since the release of Joy Division's debut album 'Unknown Pleasures' – recorded whilst the band were rehearsing at his studios! In turn, Tony will be acting as an advisor for the play, providing the production with exclusive inside knowledge, previously hidden histories and true authenticity; developed over his many years at the heart of the Manchester music scene.

In fact, Joy Division had even asked Tony to manage them – something he sadly was unable to do at the time, due to already existing commitments with the many bands on his TJM label: though still significantly supported the work of the group.

Given his appreciation of Joy Division and deep awareness of their history, Tony could be considered an ideal advisor, especially as he was impressed when  first seeing ‘NEW DAWN FADES’ a few years ago. He reflects on his invitation – and accepting the offer – to join the team:

"It's great to be asked to become involved in such a great play, as an adviser. Back in the late 70s, Warsaw, then evolving into Joy Division, made my TJM Rehearsal Studios their base for 2 years. Peter Hook is on record as saying they attribute their song writing creativity to the atmosphere of the TJM studios. The band stayed at TJM's till the death of Ian Curtis, and recorded the world famous video for 'Love WIll Tear Us Apart' there." (Pictured below, from left to right: writer Brian Gorman with Tony Davidson - By Shay Rowan)

Brian and Tony

‘NEW DAWN FADES: A Play About Joy Division & Manchester’ is after all a piece of theatre that seeks to explore a crucial era of cultural history, expose previously concealed stories and provide an innovative perspective – unlike anything audiences may have seen before. Chronicling the history of a city as well as a band, the play is written by Brian Gorman and proved a smash hit during its debut at Manchester’s much-loved pub The Lass O'Gowrie in 2013.

Very much a testament to the enthusiasm and talent in Manchester’s grassroots scene, some of the cast members have stayed with the show ever since its debut – and it is directed by Sean Mason and Giles D Bastow, who have been an integral part of the show since its inception. It is brought to the stage by Manchester production company All Roads Meet.

Yet 2019 marks some exciting further additions and debuts – including an acting role for writer Brian Gorman, who will perform in the show for the first time! Brian will take on the pivotal roles of General Julius Agricola (who founded the original Roman encampment of 'Mamucium' in the 1st century AD), and Dr John Dee (Elizabeth I’s advisor, and notorious occultist, who came to Manchester in the 17th century). This is after all a play which incorporates a range of historically-significant characters in high-energy exchanges: including everyone from Roman Generals and Friedrich Engels, to the 20th century’s Martin Hannett, Paul Morley and of course Joy Division’s influential, famously foul-mouthed manager Rob Gretton!

Brian’s acting role is also an exciting development, given that Gorman won the 2018 Salford Star Award for 'Best Performer', for his hugely popular show 'ONE MAN BOND: Every Bond Film In 60 Minutes'. He has also created and starred in 'EVERYMAN: A Celebration of Patrick McGoohan & The Prisoner’ and last year, wrote and illustrated a critically acclaimed graphic novel, based on the original stage show (with design from Giles Bastow) – covered by HAUNT here.

New Dawn Fades

And an innovative cast certainly helps! Thankfully, this year marks one of the most vibrant line-ups ever, including Joe Walsh as Ian Curtis: who left a lasting impression on audiences following joining the play during its run last year. In addition, multi-talented Joe recently had a very successful time at The Greater Manchester Fringe Festival, where he won 'Most Innovative Use Of Space', and was nominated for 'Best Newcomer' for his play Frozen Peas In An Old Tin Can (which he also had written and directed – read the HAUNT Manchester review here).

Joining Joe, is Leah Gray-Scaife (who also starred in Frozen Peas In An Old Tin Can) who plays Deborah Curtis with real emotive punch, Alan Donohoe as a highly-energetic Tony Wilson, Bill Bradshaw as Peter Hook, Matthew Melbourne as Stephen Morris, Sean Mason as Martin Hannett, and Giles Bastow as an unforgettable Rob Gretton. Plus a number of the actors also take on some historic roles…

 Going to see ‘NEW DAWN FADES’ is an opportunity not just to learn more, but to be part of an ongoing, rich history. For even though the show has evolved over the years to incorporate new additions and cast members, it has retained a strong base of fans, followers and supporters throughout – including the acclaimed photographer Shay Rowan, who has provided much of the powerful imagery, shot in a range of Manchester locations. In addition, public contributions to a Crowdfunder highlight the scale of love for the production and have supported its plans to tour - something the whole team are incredibly grateful for. 

Be part of it. NEW DAWN FADES: A Play About Joy Division & Manchester can be seen at Manchester’s The Dancehouse Theatre, Manchester from Thursday 12 September through to Saturday 14 September 2019. The show will then go on to Sheffield Leadmill, and Jackson's Lane Theatre, Highgate, London. 2019 also marks Saturday matinees of the show in Manchester and London for the first time ever!

Photography with thanks to Shay Rowan

By Emily Oldfield




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