Chezzie’s Chance for Derry Jazz Festival 2018

It’s a hive of activity in Derry over the Jazz weekend each year, and 2018 will be NO exception. In just two weeks time the city will be alive with all things Jazz, and this year will be just a little different. This year will showcase something unique, a ‘Jazz play’. Local ,and well known playwright Dave Duggan has penned Chezzie’s Chance and successfully married his two loves, theater and jazz.

Speaking with Dave over coffee this week I was given the opportunity to delve into the origins of this play which is sure to cause a ‘jazz stir’ in early May! Just how did this idea come about? “I’ve been going to the Jazz festival for as long as it’s going now,” Dave told me. “I was sitting at a gig one year and had the idea to bring theater and jazz together. I just needed a story and that dramatic moment which would bring it all together.” He found that very idea between the lines of literary critic Terry Eagleton: Take, as an image of the good life, a jazz group. A jazz group which is improvising obviously differs from a symphony orchestra, since to a large extent each member is free to express herself as she likes. But she does so with a receptive sensitivity to the self-expressive performances of the other musicians. The complex harmony they fashion comes not from playing from a collective score, but from the free musical expression of each member acting as the basis for the free expression of the others. As each player grows more musically eloquent, the others draw inspiration from this and are spurred to greater heights. There is no conflict here between freedom and the ‘good of the whole’, yet the image is the reverse of totalitarian.(The Meaning of Life, Terry Eagleton) 
And so the idea began to take life. Dave explains that this all together is implying the ability to be free and yet not lonely – very much associated with family. And hence the storyline of mother and son, debating that son’s very future. A storyline which is very much universal, but yet unique and specific to each case. A storyline very close to my own heart at present, as my youngest son prepares to leave home very soon. Maybe Donna will offer some advice!!

So just how is this going to unfold on the stage? “We have the two characters on stage and we have a jazz trio on that same stage. The domestic scene is transposed into a Jazz club. Both will be happening at the same time – the domestic and the Jazz gig. Neither cut across the other. We are playing with time. The band plays for the mother and son, and yet the audience is watching a Jazz gig. It’s interesting and it works.”
It really does sound intriguing and a most interesting storyline too.
Playing the roles of Donna (mum) and Chezzie are Orla Mullan and Conor O’Kane. Most Derry folk will know these two as regulars on the Derry stage and beyond. The Jazz trio is non other than The Linley Hamilton Trio. With a cast like such, and the dialogue of Dave Duggan, this is sure to be a winner.
Orla Mullan spoke to me about her part in Chezzie’s Chance. She’s clearly very excited about being involved in this: “I’m absolutely delighted to be working with Dave once again. Having performed at the Jazz Festival many times over the past few years as a singer, I’m so excited to be working on a project that’s a real first for the festival – a play with Jazz! As an actress and singer it’s very special to be telling the story of Chezzie and Donna through Dave’s wonderful dialogue and some of the greatest Jazz songs of all-time. It’s going to be a great show!”
Trumpeter, broadcaster and jazz academic Linley Hamilton from The Linley Hamilton Trio said: “I’ve been playing at the jazz festival for a number of years now, with different line-ups and singers, but to be on stage in a play is a first. Bring it on. The music is central to the story and, as the drama unfolds, it works with and against the dialogue, making for a truly rich experience.” 
I’ve been to a number of productions by Dave Duggan and he never disappoints. This is one with a difference and I’ve very excited to see it.

Chezzie’s Chance runs at the Millennium Studio in the MIllennium Forum on Friday 4th May at 7.30pm and again on Sunday 6th May at 3pm. This is one you don’t want to miss.

For tickets, call the Box Office on 02871264455 or via


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