Chezzie’s Chance, a Jazz play by Dave Duggan

Derry city was awash with Jazz last weekend as we all basked in the sunshine and swayed to the music. It was a real hive of music and fun. But what stood out for myself last weekend was Sunday afternoon’s performance at Derry’s Millennium Forum of Dave Duggans Jazz play, Chezzie’s Chance. I had been looking forward to this having spoken with Dave just a few weeks previous. As with all Dave’s work I knew it would be good. But I don’t think I expected it to quite blow me away in the way that it did.

Dave had explained to me that his love of Jazz and his love of Theater were what helped bring this play into being. And when he found his story inspiration in the literary lines of critic Terry Eagleton he was well underway to creating this fabulous piece. Dave had told me that the end result had a story which implied the ability to be free and yet not lonely. Something which is very closely tied to family. And so the storyline of mother and son, with the son’s impending departure from home, ensued.

The domestic story unfolded at a Jazz Club. Mother and Son sipped wine and talked, whilst the Jazz band played. And of course, we the audience were watching all. It felt like something special even before it began.

The Millennium Studio at Millennium Forum was the perfect setting for this production. With the velvet curtained windows, it had that ambiance one expects from a Jazz Club. The dark surrounds all just worked.

The production opened with music from The Linley Hamilton Trio and at regular intervals throughout the domestic discussion, the Jazz show continued. The band played for the mother and son, and yet we were watching the show. Neither the domestic scene or the Jazz music cut across the other. It just worked so well.

Orla Mullan and Conor O’Kane had this story line to a tee. Excelling in her role as mother, Orla sang her heart out, and yet portrayed the anguish all mothers experience when that child is leaving the abode. Conor likewise played his role in convincing his mother that a life of ‘Jazz’ was right for him, and was not backing down from his dream. The dialogue was spectacular throughout. It was funny and yet so poignant. I found it so compelling and intuitive of Duggan to incorporate such a serious and universal theme, and yet make it funny.

This show made me laugh and it made me cry. I laughed hard at the comic lines both Orla and Conor related. It made for lightheartedness in the midst of something very serious. Something we mothers all know only too well. And as my tears slipped silently during last Sunday afternoon it was for my own impending departure of son number 3. The baby is preparing to move out in just a few weeks time. The reality is so exciting for both he and myself but at the back of it all is heartbreak. A heartbreak no-one can imagine except a mother who has gone through it or is going through it. I’ve been here before (twice) and it does get easier but I think my silent tears that day were for the mothers who have yet to experience it. Nothing can ever prepare you for that first ‘goodbye’. And it hurts. I really did feel the pain of Donna last Sunday as Chezzie told her of his leaving.
Orla Mullan and Conor O’Kane played these roles so well that they did have me believing them to be real. Such was their chemistry and professionalism. Their singing was spectacular and each song just felt right at the particular time. What wonderful voices both these folk doth have.

Duggan went a step further in incorporating another theme very close to my heart. The freedom of the ‘mother’. Chezzie was not only following his dream but was encouraging his mother to use her newfound freedom to also follow her dream. I too have done this. The entire play was so very close to my heart that it proved very emotional for me. But all in a good way.

The writing of Chezzie’s Chance is brilliant. The incorporating of it being set in a Jazz Club was very different and original and it worked so well. I’m not the biggest Jazz fan in the world but I loved everything about this. And it’s encouraged me to listen to more Jazz and I think I really did fall in love with it last Sunday.

Chezzie’s Chance is new. It’s fresh and yet it’s themes have been around since forever. But never before have I seen a play which moved me to the extent this did. Maybe it’s because of where I am in life right now, but it left a lasting impression with me. A Jazz Play was not something I expected to leave such an impression, but this is sheer brilliance. The music is superb and the dialogue equally so. But at the heart of this is a very poignant story which everyone can relate to, but only a mother can feel.

Huge well done to Duggan on this wonderful creation. I really hope to see this on many stages in the months to come. This one deserves to be seen by many.


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