Keep on dancing – A review & interview with Exeter’s ‘In bed with my brother’

In bed with my brother presents: WE ARE IAN at the Bike Shed Theatre 22.10.2016.

One day I was searching for Exeter accounts on Twitter and I came across In bed with my brother (@Inbedwithmybro). My initial reaction was that it must be some kind of weird porn account but their feed shouted theatre, on further investigation I saw 5 star reviews of their show WE ARE IAN from the Edinburgh Fringe and I wanted to know more.


★★★★★ “”Be Ian, be you but really, just be in this audience.”(A Younger Theatre)

★★★★★ “‘We Are Ian’ demonstrates how having a dance can be a defiantly political act. You need to experience it for yourselves.”(Three weeks)

★★★★ “The unbelievable amount of energy injected into the piece is infectious and for an hour we are definitely Ian.” (British Theatre Guide)

In bed with my Brother (IBWMB) are Nora Alexander, Dora Lyn and Kat Cory, ex Exeter University Students who have just finished a residential at The Bike Shed Theatre.

WE ARE IAN is a storming, fast paced, immersive theatre piece about a real bloke called Ian and his experience of the heady Manchester acid house rave scene through its peak in 1989 and on to its demise in the mid nineties.

Onstage, Ian is represented by a lightbulb and narrates the piece via scratchy recordings of snippets of conversation. The girls react to what they hear through lots of gurning, dance and mime. There is no dialogue between them just ferocious, devastating and often hilarious depictions of Ian’s experience.


From the outset IBWMB pulled the audience into Ian’s world with a musical soundtrack from Saturday night at the Hacienda and black and white video TV footage of social and political events at the time.  One of the first things that Ian said is that he feels sorry for the girls, that they don’t have anything now, this really resonated with them:

“We’re going to be touring WE ARE IAN for the next year.. We feel it’s a really important right now, with Fabric closing and our own generations club culture being ripped away, we want the show to be seen by as many people as possible!”

The story rang lots of bells for me, as a raver in my teenage years (not quite as early as 1989) I remember the changes in the scene, mourning the loss of house parties when the Criminal Justice Act was enforced and the change in the mood in the clubs. I also ran a club through the naughties and watched the clubbing scene slowly diminishing through stringent policing and negative council involvement.

IBWMB’s performance was a rollercoaster of emotions from elation to devastation, the girls managed to portray the peaks and demise of the rave scene brilliantly making it more relevant and vital today as images of Thatcher became images of May.

As the rave scene got darker the dancing became more frantic and desperate, much like the current club scene trying desperately to keep the party going in the face of adversity. The girls collapse in sadness and exhaustion, it feels like the end – the performance has gone in a perfect circle – there is nothing for this generation. But then the music starts again, and the girls start to dance, and we are asked to dance, and by the end of it we were all dancing on stage in abandonment.


After the show I asked the girls a few questions:

We need to know, who is Ian?

Ian is Dora’s step-dad. Loads of people think that he’s just a random guy we found on YouTube, and some people are really amazed when they find out that he’s pretty close to us. Last year, Kat and Dora were living with him in Bristol and we were thinking about making a new show. Ian asked us if we would make a show about his life. Initially we were going to say no, because we didn’t know why we would. But after having a lot of conversations with Ian, and hearing about when he was younger (our age) in the height of the Acid House movement in the UK; his stories really resonated with us. It also felt to us that his was a really important story to tell, because his voice is not usually one heard in the Theatre. It was a real definite decision from us that we would only use his voice and not our own – we wanted everything to come exactly from the horses mouth, and we wanted his words to be one of the most powerful things in the show.

What does he think about WE ARE IAN? Does he like it? 

Yes he has seen it. And yes he likes it. It’s really funny having him the audience , because he’s always interrupting, and it’s so obvious that it’s him because his voice is so recognisable. All of the music we have in WE ARE IAN, are tracks given to us by Ian, so sometimes he’ll just chirp in and shout ‘TUNE’ whenever we play something he loves. He usually says it about the Lil’ Louis track we have towards the end of the show. It was great when he came up for a bit when we in Edinburgh, he was a bit of a celebrity – we’d come out of the show and find Ian at the bar with a group of people from the audience buying him drinks, which was cool.

You have received a lot of awards and accolades in a short space of time. What’s next for you guys? Are you / will you be working on a new show?

Yeah we were quite overwhelmed with the response we received in Edinburgh, and we’ve been urged by so many people to keep it going – so we’re going to be touring WE ARE IAN for the next year.. We’re having ittle bitty conversations about a new show at the moment, but we’re still going to be focusing most of our energy on WE ARE IAN for a bit of time yet. We’re always adapting and changing the show, and we feel there’s always be work to be done!

You met at Exeter Uni, will you remain based here after your bike shed residency ends?

It’s already ended actually! Boooooo we are sad 🙁 but now there’s a new Graduate Company developing a show, which is cool! It’s such an amazing sheme that the Bike Shed offer so we’re excited to see what the new guys get up to. They’re called ‘Kill The Cat’ so keep a look out for them! We’re pretty in love with the South West, and Exeter has been a good base for us the last year. It’s such a chilled city, and much cheaper and more relaxed than London, we can’t imagine joining the rat race quite yet, or at all to be honest. We like lie-ins too much.

What do you think of Exeter’s theatre scene? Could I’d be improved / how?

Exeter is such a beautiful city and we’ve been so lucky during our time here to have been nurtured and mentored by the amazing team at the Bike Shed. There’s an amazing artistic community here – but the Theatre world is still dominated by London. There are some great touring shows that come down here, and even though we feel Exeter is being noticed as a cultural city, it would be amazing to get more people to create a base in cities like Exeter, to live and make work, not just to pass through, to spread creativity all around the country. The Bike Shed is such an amazing asset to the city and is really respected in the industry for its programme. It would be great to reach out to a larger local audience, and involve more people in the artistic community that exists here.

Of course I had to ask the very obvious question of: Where did the name ‘In bed with my brother’ come from? 

Aaahhhhh the name eh……basically Nora was once auditioning to assistant direct on a play whilst we were at uni, and she had to sit down and speak to this panel of judges (well they were just students at the university), and they were really pressurising her with questions. One of the guys there kept trying to test her ‘theatrical knowledge’ and asked her what shows she had seen recently – she was put on the spot and couldn’t think of many, but he kept going after everything she was saying, asking her what else. So she started making ones up, and on the spot came up with in bed with my brother, who she said were a dance and movement collective, and the guy was just nodding along and said that he’d heard of them. But he obviously hadn’t, because Nora had made it up. She didn’t get the job, so we thought that it would be really great when we decided to start performing together, if we named ourselves in bed with my brother, in the hope that one day he might come along and see in bed with my brother, and realise that  it’s just us three running around being idiots on stage.

hahahaha, everyone thinks that our name is something really profound, and that we’ll come up with some sort of amazing metaphor for why we called ourselves in bed with my brother. But it’s not really. whoops.

If you get the opportunity, you MUST SEE this show, especially if you’re an old(er) raver like me.

You can catch WE ARE IAN at the New Diorama theatre in London 11th / 12th November and 1st / 2nd December, if you are up those ways I recommend you do!


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