Mention The Hacienda to pretty much anyone of a certain age in Manchester and expect to be locked into a long conversation about the best days of their life. It’s understandable, the acid house scene of the early 90s was one of the most exhilarating times in Manchester’s cultural history and a new one-man stage show Better Days is a celebration of those smiley-faced, hazy years.
Playwright Ben Tagoe has spent the past decade or so working as a writer for hit TV shows such as Corrie, Casualty and Eastenders and more recently writing TV show episodes and adaptations that have featured some huge stars including Idris Elba, James Nesbitt and Dougray Scott.
Better Days sees Tagoe returning to his clubbing roots. It tells the story of Danny, a 19-year-old in 1990 who finds himself at a crossroads between two tribes: the ravers of the burgeoning house music scene and the gang of football hooligans to which he is bound by ardent loyalty. Set to tour the UK in Spring this year, the show will be stopping off at the Carlton Club in Whalley Range in March.
Better Days has been Crowdfunded by devotees of classic house, rave culture and acid house music, with Ben raising a staggering £11k to take his story to the stage. He said, “The Crowdfunder campaign was a huge success. It really seemed to capture people’s imagination and the support was incredible.”
The performance weaves the music that made the era into a heart wrenching story designed to prickle the eyelids with nostalgia for those who lived it the first time around. If you are too young to have experienced it first hand, it’s a chance to have a peek for yourself into the golden years of the acid house scene. Expect to be transported back to the early 90s with a raft of party bangers from the era, including tracks by N-Joi, Frankie Knuckles, Gat Décor, 808 State and the title track Better Days by Jimi Polo.
Writer and director, Ben Tagoe, said: “Better Days isn’t entirely biographical, but it is very much drawn from my own personal experience and those of close friends. Rave and house music was a massive part of my youth. It’s a universal story that anybody who came of age in that era will relate to. It was a magical time and there are so many amazing memories.
“Better Days will be an intimate standing show. I felt it would be best to get the crowd as close as possible to the performer to re-create the feeling of being in a club, but with the storytelling integrated. It will be like listening to an old mixtape from the early 90s, but with Danny’s very personal story mixed in.”
The 70-minute show will be performed by up-and-coming actor George Martin from East Yorkshire. He said, “I’ve always been a fan of 90s house music. Having heard the stories of the legendary clubs that existed across the UK, I’ve always felt like I missed out on something. Being part of Better Days is not only fulfilling as an actor, it has also given me an opportunity to experience what it was it like.”
The tour starts in Leeds on 28 February and lands in Manchester at The Carlton Club on Wednesday 1 March. In Manchester, music legend Rowetta will appear onstage alongside playwright Ben Tagoe for a live Q&A session after the show.
Venue: The Carlton Club
Date: Wednesday 1 March
Price: £13.50 for Carlton Club members, £15 general admission