Zandra, Queen of Jazz – Smock Alley – Review
by Frank L.
18 – 23 Nov 2019 | 8pm | Matinee 23 Nov, 3pm | Boys’ School
Zandra, christened Josephine Alexandra Mitchell, was born in Phibsborough in 1903 into a musical family whose father, Joseph Mitchell, conducted the orchestra in the Theatre Royal while also working as a civil servant. She played many instruments in her youth but after receiving a saxophone as a present she never looked back.
Like many, she left Ireland at an early age. She headed with her brother to London for a week to play in a band. There, spotted by a talent scout, she travelled to Switzerland and then began her career playing in various jazz bands throughout Europe and eventually settling in Berlin. In the German capital, she witnessed the rise of the Nazi party and the Second World War. This is the story of her time in Germany and beyond.
Lynch appears on stage with a suitably bobbed blonde hairdo wearing a slinky, silver playsuit. She looks the part for the world of Berlin nightlife in the nineteen-thirties. With lighting and sounds effects, she introduces various instruments which may make up a jazz ensemble with a bias in favour of the saxophonist and a love/hate relationship with the percussionist! The drummer gets much friendly slagging throughout the show in the form of various gags and jokes. She talks about the ups and downs of Zandra’s life relying at times on documents supplied by Michael Gallagher such as an invitation late in the war from the Irish Charge d’Affaires in Berlin inviting her to a St. Patrick’s Day party. Snippets such as these bring colour to the performance.
Lynch tells Zandra’s story with gusto and it is a story worth the telling. The weakness in the presentation is the pace and tone which rarely alters regardless of what is happening on stage, whether joyous or sorrowful. That said Lynch and Richard Lennon, who is responsible for the sound design, along with director Katherine Soloviev, have brought into the light a long-forgotten Irish musician whose life is worthy of acclaim. It is a worthwhile addition to the canon of Irish lives in the twentieth century and while not a documentary it creates an entertainment which gives a twenty-first century audience some idea of her adventurous spirit.
Cast and Crew –
Written and Performed by: Roseanne Lynch
Directed by: Katherine Soloviev
Original Music, Arrangements and Sound Design by: Richard Lennon
Costume and Lighting Design by Lianne O’Shea
Poster by: Eugene Korolkov