Ray Scannell is the writer and performer of Deep, a renowned one-man play about the club scene in Cork in the 1980s which he will bring to Kilkenny Arts Festival later this week...

‘Sweat at Sir Henry’s’ was a club night in one of Cork’s favourite venues throughout the 1980s and 1990s.  Held regularly on Saturday nights, DJ duties were usually done by Greg Dowling and Shane Johnson, who later went on to form house act Fish Go Deep.  The venue itself was around from late 1970s, with many artifacts from the venue’s dark interior and “mythical status” now on display in University College Cork. 

There’s a lot of history in Sir Henry’s, and following the recent closure of another main player in the Cork music scene, something about the way Ray Scannell’s new play ‘Deep’ tells the story is familiar to those who spent their youth at “Henry’s”. 

The music scene in Cork at the time was influenced by different genres, as records were brought back by those who emigrated around that time. “People brought back records from London” says Ray, “the artists that followed and played in Cork at the time were testament to the atmosphere in Cork.”

Focused around vinyl junkie Larry Lehane, ‘Deep’ explores the goings on of the music venue through a narrative play styled like a DJ set.  Other characters such as Larry’s older brother and his brother’s girlfriend come into play through stories, mix-tapes, and more.  It’s a family affair for both Larry and the regular goers of Sir Henry’s.  ‘Deep’ focuses on the club night mainly, with video footage and stories of a lyrical style making up the rest of the doc-style story.

“It didn’t matter where you were from – on drugs or not (Ray jokes) – there was that cliché of breaking down barriers”.  It was “pre health and safety days really” typical of the club scene at the time.  For a then 20-year-old Ray Scannell, he and his mates were fond of the venue’s “Grungy and rundown look”, which led him to write ‘Deep’ almost 25 years after its beginning.  The venue was well-known on the “Euro circuit” with equivalent venues in Glasgow and further afield.

Wondering if the Cork scene had a domino effect on venues elsewhere, Ray describes it as mixed bag, “depends who you talk to, Henry’s went from a rock venue to club”.  The changing musical tastes of those attending gigs and those performing also showed this, when Ray recalls, “One DJ was taken aside in a bar once and told ‘you’re killing music’, I think there was a bit of music snobbery towards house music.”

Talking about the type of music that’s popular now, he added, ‘It’s natural continuation of other genres. Disclosure is garage, things come around”.

Not many venues would get the legacy treatment that Sir Henry’s has, but it doesn’t mean that people can’t relate to it outside of Cork, the play has shown this while on tour; “that’s a feeling we’ve been getting going around to different venues” and with the closure of Cork’s Pavillion recently, “There’s a gap now the Pav is gone”.

Described by Ray as “a play for nostalgics and new generations”, there’s an expectation that the “myth grows larger” and many people like the main character Larry, haven’t moved on or can’t let go of the places where our youth and memories that go with it were born.

The show itself opens a run of shows at the Kilkenny Arts Festival over the next two weeks. The show is “adaptable”, a “one man show” that recreates a night at the club.  “Cleere’s lends itself to atmosphere.” says Ray in the run up to the shows at Cleere’s Theatre, “I’m looking forward to it, it’s intimate for the crowd”.

‘Deep’ runs from 9th to 10th and 13th to 17th of August 2014 at Kilkenny Arts Festival.