Jack Shepherd's play about the tensions within a small-time jazz combo begins gloriously shambolically: members drift into the Pleasance Cabaret Bar one by one, set up their gear, banter acerbically with one another and even clean up the place. Gradually it becomes apparent that bass-player Harry the Head is not the only one with a monkey on his back: everyone has some psychological, emotional or sexual cross which they not only bear but batter the others around the head with. The brief set played midway through is loose but surprisingly accomplished. Thereafter, though, the actors get a "solo" each, resulting in a string of set-piece speeches noodling around the nexus of politics, culture and how the true jazzer's spirit fits into it all; only Jim Bywater's magnificent smacked-out monologue as Harry makes any impact. Dramatically as well as musically, when they're hot they're hot, but when they're not, well, they're not.
Written for The Independent.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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