Raymond Scannell writes and performs in 'Deep', directed by Louise Lowe.

Raymond Scannell writes and performs in 'Deep', directed by Louise Lowe.

The moment we set foot in the Half Moon Theatre, we are thrown back in time to the ‘90s, to an era that is still just reachable in our memory bank, but falling out of our grasp with the passing of each day. Deep invites us back to a time in the city when lives were falling apart, but souls came together to sweat and dance and rave, in the heart of Cork City, in the home of house music: Sir Henry’s night club.

Our guide down this nostalgic path is Larry Lehane, the boy who was born “hearing the beats of the heart monitor and thinking of putting a house beat to it.” Larry’s whole world revolves around music – and Sir Henry’s becomes the place where he can hide away, as his life crashes down around him.

Seated in the round, the audience itself feels as if we are somehow back in Sir Henry’s, raving with Larry and his friends. The lighting, ably designed by Ciarán O’Melia, manages to capture the atmosphere, colour and chaos of a dance floor. The sound design of Carl Kennedy too, fills our senses. He weaves together snippets of nostalgic tracks, with microphone distortions, creating a soundscape that overwhelms us and drives the frantic pace of the piece.

Craig Cox’s video design serves a dual purpose in the piece. His fleeting clips of MTV music videos, segments from ‘The Late Late Show’ and news reports of the ‘90s continue the play's quest to root us firmly in the past. He also undercuts this, however, with footage that shows former Sir Henry’s bouncers and workers reflecting on an era that was, but that is now very much in the past. We are reminded that Sir Henry’s closed its doors, that this era that we cling to and that Larry clings to has passed.

From the moment Raymond Scannell walks out onto the stage, before the lights go up, before a word is said, we are under his spell. The set is sparse but it tells us everything we need to know. A bed, represents Larry’s childhood sanctuary; a keyboard and microphone offer this same sanctuary for an older Larry. Screens surround us, both big and small reflecting the influence of popular culture on our protagonist. Scannell seats himself in a swivel chair and with every spin the anticipation heightens. We are ready to hear what he has to say.

Louise Lowe directs the piece with skill and a lightness of touch that allows the performer to inhabit the space and move as if he owns it, as if we are a part of it, but he is in charge of it. Lowe’s direction allows Scannell to move with ease through the myriad characters he conveys. From troubled father to high maintenance girlfriend, from Irish Mammy to rebellious teenager, we are with him for them all and enthralled by them all. His central character, Larry, upon whom the play is anchored, is his greatest triumph. Larry is damaged, lonely, funny and vulnerable. He tells us the truth of his life, punctuated by an awkward giggle that makes us feel his sorrow all the deeper. Larry is deep, he is not extraordinary, he is just a Cork boy, who loves music, who must live his life, as everyone must, but who feels its pain and seeks shelter in a place where he feels more at home than anywhere else: Sir Henry’s.

The standout element of Deep, however, is the words: the frantic, energetic and relentless script by Raymond Scannell. The pace is frenetic, the words cascade out of him and rush by us. We do not hear everything, we do not get everything, but I feel that we are not meant to. We spend two hours raving with Larry. All elements of the piece fuse together, to blind us and make us feel like we are caught up in one of the busiest nights in Sir Henry’s. It all amounts to a sensory overload. There is no break in the action. The lights dance in front of us, the words conjure up images that make us deal with grief, deal with life, that make us remember. The sound triggers happiness and sadness, we feel each emotion briefly but deeply. The pace of the script drives us forward, the direction gives us no moment to relax, we are listening, we are watching, we are remembering, we are missing things, we are frustrated, and just as we are exhausted, the piece stops.

As abruptly as Sir Henry’s closed, so too does the piece. We find ourselves, lost and battered, tired but elated, glad we were there. Deep is not to be missed, if only to relive a little “the magic of that little black box on South Main Street.”

Laura O’Mahony is a writer from Cork who holds a degree in Drama and Theatre Studies as well as an MA in Irish Writing from University College Cork.

  • Review
  • Theatre

Deep by Raymond Scannell

21 - 30 June, 2013

Produced by Cork Midsummer Festival
In the Half Moon Theatre, Cork

Written and Performed by Raymond Scannell

Directed by Louise Lowe

Sound Design: Carl Kennedy

Video Design: Craig Cox

Set/Lighting/Costume Design: Ciarán O’Melia

 Deep is also being performed at Dublin Fringe Festival 2013 from 17-21 September

'Deep' is supported by an Arts Council Theatre Project Award. Developed at Make, a residential workshop facilitated by Cork Midsummer Festival, Dublin Fringe Festival, Project Arts Centre and Theatre Forum, and Fringe Lab with the support of Dublin Fringe Festival.