After a leisurely meal at Shaka Zulu restaurant in Camden, and running late, we rushed to the nearest underground station only to find it closed. In a mindless panic we hailed the nearest London cab and thankfully got Owen Williams of East Dulwich, our hero taxi driver, who was a master of ‘The Knowledge’ and managed to get us safely to the Palace Theatre for a showing of The Commitments. With only seconds to spare, we rushed into the foyer only to be told that there was a hold-up due to technical problems. So, with terrible indigestion from rushing, and time now to spare, we headed to head to the bar to quench our thirst.
Eventually we were called, and took our seats to wait for the curtain to rise on this first staging of the Roddy Doyle book and film. The play explores the tribulations of an impoverished band trying to resurrect American soul in Dublin in 1987. The cast were outstanding, especially Denis Grindel as the band manager and the portrayal of Jimmy Rabbitte, an upbeat character who knew the band was going to have to fight for everything that they deserved. Killian Donnelly played the thoroughly unlikeable Deco, who is reluctant to take any direction from his fellow band members, but whose rebellious attitude to life is redeemed in the end by his talented soulful voice. Joe Woolmer as Mikah the skinhead bouncer was hilarious and added a great deal of comedy value to the show.
If members of the audience have had the pleasure of seeing the film, they will probably find the first quarter of an hour of the production underwhelming. Alan Parker’s film version brought nuances to the development of the characters that isn’t found here, and also dealt better with the theme of 1980s Dublin disillusionment with unemployment and social troubles leading the impoverished to set their aspirations higher by turning to the soul music of 1960s America. As soon as the cast began to belt out classic songs such as ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ and ‘In the Midnight Hour’ however, the show became a full-blown, rousing West End musical. The audience were soon finding it very difficult to remain seated and danced until the final curtain.
We would truly recommend this marvellous stage production of a great story. There is high volume of strong expletive in the performance, so parental guidance is advised for the very young.
By: Julie Cousins and Stephanie Gilbert