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Posts Tagged ‘Roddy Doyle’

Adapting a book or a film for the stage is a risky business. If the audience have read / seen the original, the characters already exist in their head, where the story is also firmly embedded. Perhaps having Roddy Doyle on board helps this page-to-screen-to-stage show pull it off, for pull it off it does!

Soul becomes the soundtrack of working class Dublin as Jimmy goes about putting a band together. He engages some friends and auditions others and in no time, there you are listening to classic songs like Reach Out, I’ll Be There and Papa Was A Rolling Stone played superbly by a partly onstage, partly offstage band and sung brilliantly by Killian Donnelly as Deco (how will he do this eight times a week?!) and three backing singers. The show’s certainly got soul.

It’s also got heart, as you fall in love with the inhabitants of fictitious Barrytown in north Dublin and their fecking self-deprecating humour. Designer Soutra Gilmour has created blocks of flats on three sides from which characters appear and peer down. You’re rooting for the entrepreneurial but naive manager Jimmy, desperate to make The Commitments a success, even when they seem set on self-destruction. Whether his tales are true or not, you can’t help liking been-there-done-that predatory Joey, who seems to get all the girls. You even fall for skinhead bouncer-come-drummer Mickah, brilliantly played by Joe Woolmer.

At first It seemed to be rushing through the story – at one moment, you’re seeing an audition and the next a public performance – but in the end it didn’t really matter as it captured the lives of the ‘niggers of Europe, niggers of Ireland, niggers of Dublin’. The humour is terrific, not least when one band member has a dalliance with jazz, which comes in for some coruscating swipes, and with a running gag involving a new romantics auditionee. There isn’t a weak link in the young (mostly) Irish cast. Above all, the music raises the roof, with a soundtrack to die for.

The idea of half-price previews is inspired. The houses are full, the cast and the audience are getting hyped up and the word of mouth is flowing. The absence of a big producer in the credits (unless they are hiding behind ‘The Commitments London Limited’) suggests we may be seeing a fresh approach here, in which case they deserve the success this show is almost certain to get. It’s a West End show that feels like a fringe show and it has HIT written all over it – and it’s the 4th in six months for director Jamie Lloyd.

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