I’ve never read the book but I do remember the first time I saw the film. I saw it in Navan, Co. Meath in the Lyric Cinema on Brewers Hill. At the time, many people could relate to it in Ireland. Unemployment was rife, it was pre-mobile phones, if you didn’t see your mates, you could always meet them down on the dole queue on a Tuesday. Alan Parker’s 1991 film captured it perfectly.
That’s the way Ireland was and The Commitments, combined with a fantastic soundtrack, summed what everyone felt. We all wanted to escape. Fast forward, twenty four years, I live in London and I go to see the stage show in The Palace Theatre.
Director Jamie Lloyd does pack a punch with his production and once the curtain raises, the first reaction is Wow! The ‘Barrytown’ high rise flats aka Ballymun (5 minutes walk from where I lived in D11 in Dublin) is recreated on stage in different levels. Different parts of the flats pull out to reveal the Rabbite household and the local pub are cleverly pushed back to create the square in the centre of all the flats. The Rabbitte household is really well executed with the front room, stairs and Jimmy’s bedroom all on show.
You can’t beat a bit of Dublin humour and The Commitments provides that. It’s impossible to recreate everything from a book or film and at the beginning of the show, it feels a little rushed to get to a certain point in the story by a certain time. But this adds to the comic feel. The laughs are there as well as the ‘Say it once, say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud’ line. I’m always going to compare this to the film, there’s no way around it. It’s a little disappointing that the love triangle / square between Joey the Lips and the three Commitmentettes isn’t drawn out a little more. Unfortunately this leads to Joey not being the smarmy git he is in the 1991 film. The authenticity of Dublin life is kept intact. The stage show remains true to Dubspeak in all it’s fucking glory.
But The Commitments is all about the music and it doesn’t fail to disappoint, although a couple of the big songs from the film are placed at the end of the stage show. If you like your soul music, you’ll be in heaven. It’s loud, it’s in your face and the energy from the stage is just electric. Heaven knows how they managed to do it eight times a week. Denis Grindel excels as the slightly cocky band manager, Jimmy Rabbitte. Brian Gilligan commands the stage with his vocal performance as front man and nutter, Deco. However, it’s a pity The Commitmentettes don’t get more time to shine, they’ve bloody good voices.
Overall it’s a great night’s entertainment, the set is fantastic and I couldn’t help but laugh my bag off at the ‘Heroine Kills’ banner in the community centre, ‘The Hot Press journalist’ and ‘Eejit Records’. These people are speaking in my tongue. It’s Dublin through and through, a little rough round the edges but ye love it to bits.
*Keep an eye out for ticket deals, we got ours for £20 each and our seats we upgraded when we got to the theatre. Nice work!