The Commitments theatre review: The chance to see ‘The worlds hardest working band’ a Dublin soul band.

The Commitments theatre review, Katey Thompson at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking.

Photo Credit Johan Persson

Adapted from the Roddy Doyle book of the same name and following in the footsteps of the famous film, this musical attempts to recreate the same combination of musical passion and real-life pressure.

A band is born in mid-80s North Dublin, a place that needs a soul revival in the face of synth inspired pop.  The band founder Jimmy (Andrew Linnie) attempts to bring together the musicians he can find to audition, along with friends of friends to make the dream come alive.  Band tensions from the start threaten to undermine his ambitious project, but driven by a desire to be the ‘savior of soul’ he pushes forward, while desperately trying to hold it all together.

Photo Credit Johan Persson

Every character in the band is gloriously diverse, a rag-tag collection of working class proletariat, some with virtually no musical ability. I liked the characterisations of the typical working class Dubliners, if not always the characters. The lead singer Deco (Brian Gilligan) is blessed with a stunning soul voice, but is lacking in charm and likeability, clashing with virtually all the band members.  The development of the band from novices to the point of delivering their first performance was very well done, the pace of improvement was believable.  

The set is ambitious, and the atmosphere of the pub, community centre and garage practice room are cleverly constructed on stage, with frequent set changes to move between locations.  If any criticism could be made was that the garage set almost looked as if it was about to fall down but perhaps it is meant to reflect the tenuous foundations the band is built upon?

Photo Credit Johan Persson

The performance of the cast was strong, with every member of the cast giving it their all and delivering excellent vocal performances as they delivered the soul classics everyone wanted to hear.  The accents were very realistic, but not being used to the Dublin lilt left me missing some of the jokes, a shame as there was good humour in the script.  

Some of the stronger songs were left to the end, but I think they could have been used to better effect during the main story.  The crowd did perk up at the end, but missed their cue which suggested I wasn’t the only one to miss the jokes or the full impact of the show.   The obviously disjointed way the band comes together and then falls apart gave the performance a deliberately shambolic feel, but led to some great comedic moments.  

Despite the criticisms it is virtually a sell out and you will have a good evening’s entertainment, but will it knock your socks off?  Perhaps time will tell.

The Commitments review, Katey Thompson, April 2017.

The Commitments is running at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking until 22nd April 2017.

The Commitments (UK Tour)