Two of Clubs – Theatre Upstairs – Review by Frank L.
Until December 16th
It is 1938, Polly (Jessica Leen) lives in Cork and feels trapped by the constraints of her little world and takes the boat to New York. She is alone. She is afraid. She finds temporary work in humdrum jobs but more importantly she sings in a small jazz night club called “Jack’s”. It is not where she wants to end up but it is a beginning to her career as a singer. She is espied by Johnnie (Darragh Shannon) a strapping young man who is an earlier arrival from Cork. They click and the story follows their highs and lows.
The Nth Degree, who are credited with the set design, have created with the clever use of red fabric on the stage and the introduction of some small round black tables amongst the seating, an atmosphere of an intimate night club in Theatre Upstairs. A microphone hangs from the ceiling of the stage and when Polly sings a jazz number it is to the audience in Jack’s. Leen sings to the accompaniment of a soundtrack and she interacts convincingly with it. When she refers for instance to the sax player and then a short saxophone solo is heard. Darragh Shannon as Johnnie has to play the part of an optimistic young male without a great deal of forward thinking. He is a foil for the far more clued-in Polly. His character is two dimensional in comparison to that of Polly’s.
A great many things happen in the lives of Polly and Johnnie, probably too many in the course of a play which lasts just over an hour. It might have been wiser to have had fewer happenings but instead to have developed more thoroughly how they reacted to the remaining events. Jessica Leen in front of a microphone showed a fine ability to interpret a song. The play was at its strongest when it was concentrating on Polly’s life of trying to become a singer. Her domestic difficulties with Johnnie, which undoubtedly impacted upon her career, could have been related in a more distilled manner.
Considerable time and energy went into creating the ambience of a jazz night club. Irish emigrants are not often associated with this style of music. Jazz does signify a rebellion against the old order. It shows a desire to embrace a new world rather than to hanker after the illusory comfort of the past. For that alone the Two of Clubs is to be praised.
Creative Team –
Jessica Leen / WRITER + CAST
Darragh Shannon / CAST
Ronan Dempsey / DIRECTOR
Laura Honan / LIGHTING DESIGN
Gavin Hennessy / SOUND DESIGN
Naomi Faughnan / ASSOCIATE DESIGNER