Sunday, June 23, 2013

Raymond Scannell, 'DEEP': Like the Legend of the Phoenix

Half Moon Theatre, Cork Midsummer Festival
Jun 21-30

My review of Raymond Scannell's new play DEEP coming up just as soon as I get laughed at by a Depeche Modist ...

If we didn't know by now: Raymond Scannell really fu*king loves music.

Before composing the electro-pop score for the glam Alice in Funderland he toured his one-man show MIMIC - a monologue on piano about a nation's loss and imitation of values. That show I saw twice - partly because I was in love with the overlay of music and spoken text, and because Scannell paces so fast that you almost wish there was a pause and rewind.

Here Scannell also moves like lightening. His misfit this time around is Larry Lehane, a house music obsessive. Conceived by Terry and Danny, or 'Devito', with an iconic song by Donna Summer playing in the background - a song considered the beginning of electronic dance (and a music reference that I am tastelessly ignorant of) - Larry will go on to live a life entwined with turntables and synthesised basslines. His brother Danny Jr. returns from New York with tales of the decimated house scene, arranging a syllabus that unites the Lehane brothers with the spirited Jojo. As the deep house wave rises anew and rides from the U.S. to the U.K., it takes harbour in Cork's Sir Henry's nightclub in the late Eighties where Larry, his friend Paul and pristine girlfriend Debbie, form part of a new community in the city. 

Ten years have passed since Sir Henry's closing, and Scannell's homage to the institution forms a social and political history of Cork. He describes a club culture more spiritual than salacious, raising their hands in the air, reaching for connection through the electronic beats. However, the economic shifts in the city eventually shove their way through the club doors. MDMA, a.k.a. ecstasy, was administered by therapists to those with marital problems but it soon became an accessible and  cheaper successor to LSD and flooded the dancefloor. A new, drug-infused crowd came to jam the Sir Henry, pushing out the ravers who once sought solace in the club lights.

Scannell's script, swift and clever, literally throws vinyls into his verse. At one stage he cuts off Whigfield's head as a sharp scratch halts Saturday Night, while in another moment he describes records turning backwards in his gut to connote his dread. Director Louise "LL Cool J" Lowe sets the action like an installation in the centre of the Half Moon, with Scannell's speaker moving freely through the bedroom set designed by Ciaran O'Melia, using an analogue keyboard and microphone for some funky effects. 

However, around ninety minutes in one gets the sense that Scannell has put too much into this play, and he's rushing through an over-sized script. The action ends closer to the two hour point, at which time our attention has become strained. It's further proof of how ambitious DEEP truly is, and while Scannell's story of deep house ravers could do with a considerable chop to its running time, it spins us nearer to an important time in Cork's social history. In a city stumped by a diminished economy and increasing emigration, where others felt stuck the ravers found the Sir Henry, who reached out and moved, their dance divine.

What did everybody else think?

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