Previewed 21 September 2013, Opened 8 October 2013, Closed: 1 November 2015 at the Palace Theatre in London
The stage premiere of Roddy Doyle's novel The Commitments in London, adapted for the stage by Roddy Doyle and directed by Jamie Lloyd.
Jimmy Rabbitte - a young working class music fan - shapes an unlikely bunch of amateur musicians and friends into an amazing live act, in fact, the finest soul band Dublin has ever produced. The show follows the journey of two members of a frustrated synthesizer band - the opening scene we find them playing but being ignored in a shop window - who turn to Jimmy, the local music expert, for help. Placing a classified advert in a music paper, Jimmy auditions a number of wannabes before finalising the new line up who he names The Commitments. They had absolutely nothing. But they were willing to risk it all.
This production has been adapted for the stage by Roddy Doyle and directed by Jamie Lloyd with choreography by Ann Yee, designs by Soutra Gilmour, lighting by Jon Clark and sound by Rory Madden. Please Note: The performance is not suitable for under 12's.
When this production opened Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard highlighted that "Jamie Lloyd’s production has plenty of pace and energy... we get to hear lots of classic soul songs... yet the show isn’t a full-blown jukebox musical. Instead it feels more like a play about a struggling band who eventually serve up a rip-roaring concert. By the end the mood is boisterous enough to get the audience on its feet." Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph wrote: "The biggest compliment I can pay Jamie Lloyd's production is to say that it really has got soul. It's memorably gritty at times and also proves wonderfully funny and touching. This is much more than a bog–standard compilation musical. The dialogue has a splendid sarky wit and the exhilaration of making music is beautifully caught." Lyn Gardner in the Guardian said it offers "a slew of familiar hits delivered with real heart by a talented young cast who don't wait for the audience to start dancing in the aisles, but simply do it themselves." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail thought that "the stage version is less romantic, less interesting. It offers a pumpy night out full of noisy tunes played by a musically competent cast... You certainly get your money’s worth and, blimey, it’s noisy. From the off it’s all go, both in volume and lighting." In the Daily Express Simon Edge said that "there's nothing low-key about this roaring stage version." Libby Purves in the Times decribed it as being "a big-hearted, flash'n'dazzle, raw and raucous big-night-out show... once the band is formed, the show becomes unstoppable fun, with plenty of big numbers, most of them different from the film." Alexander Gilmour in the Financial Times noted how "Soutra Gilmour’s design, dominated by a peeling tenement block, is shabby in the right way. And most of the singing is punchy and fun." Paul Taylor in the Independent commented that "the evening is much more successful as a staggered gig than as drama. Though Doyle himself wrote the book, the storytelling lacks texture... despite Soutra Gilmour’s looming tower-block set, the stakes feel low and the mood blandly upbeat." Sam Marlowe in the London Metro extolled: "The songs are belted out with gusto, the cast is terrific and the dialogue has plenty of salty zing... The show is exuberant, fast and funny but, in the end, more gloss than grit."
"At last we have a jukebox musical to sing about. Roddy Doyle’s delightful 1987 novel is made up mostly of dialogue, so perfect for dramatisation — and it’s all about music. Then came Alan Parker’s cracking fillum of 1991, and now we have Dublin’s saviours of soul in a form where you can see them in the flesh, performing live (and drinking, and fighting) right in front of you. The result is sublime. Get your ticket now — although, to be honest, this show will probably run for a decade or more... The director, Jamie Lloyd, marshals this carnival of youthful energy with complete control and some lovely directorial touches. The more your ear picks up, the more you’ll get out of it... A sweet-soul, solid-gold, five-star blast." The Sunday Times
"Anyone unfamiliar with either the film or the novel will be lost. An already skinny plot has become emaciated; the characterisation is barely there. Of course comparisons are odious, but this is a matter of too much missing with nothing but a deluge of witlessness and swearing taking its place... Soutra Gilmour's set of hideous concrete blocks of flats - which opens up to become squidged, overcrowded front-rooms, factory canteens, community centres and bars - is so authentic that you can almost feel the sticky surfaces and smell the Jeyes Fluid. But the roughness that director Jamie Lloyd is striving for feels merely ragged and unready, the acting hammy, the staging dull. There's no doubting the commitment of the cast, just the quality of their often inaudible performances. The only numbers given space and time are Mustang Sally and Try A Little Tenderness but these are add-ons when the show proper has ended and Jimmy forces the audiences to clap along." The Mail on Sunday
"I have no doubt that Jamie Lloyd's production of The Commitments will prove to be a commercial success, but artistically – and I would say spiritually and emotionally, too – it is a big disappointment. Roddy Doyle has himself adapted his Booker Prizewinning novel about a group of youngsters who form a band in Dublin in the Eighties, and it may well be that Lloyd found it difficult to keep the great man under control. What Doyle and Lloyd have created works neither as a drama or a concert. There are, it is true, some big soul classics... but they are almost all interrupted by the endless string of profanities which pass for Doyle's script." The Sunday Telegraph
"Up for a nostalgia trip? Then this musical, adapted by Roddy Doyle from his own 1987 novel - which itself spawned Alan Parker's movie - could be just the ticket. The songs are belted out with gusto, the cast is terrific and the dialogue has plenty of salty zing. It's quite a ride; the trouble is, it doesn't really go anywhere... Jamie Lloyd's production tears along on Soutra Gilmour's multi-storey sets... But as the numbers roll by, the narrative loses its interest and the absence of detailed characterisation and dramatic tension becomes conspicuous. The show is exuberant, fast and funny but, in the end, more gloss than grit." The Metro
Jimmy Rabbitte knew his music. He knew his stuff alright. You’d never see Jimmy coming home from town without a new album or a 12-inch or at least a 7-inch single. Jimmy ate 'Melody Maker' and the 'NME' every week and 'Hot Press' every two weeks. He listened to Dave Fanning and John Peel. He even read his sisters’ 'Jackie' when there was no one looking. So Jimmy knew his stuff. The last time Outspan had flicked through Jimmy’s records he’d seen names like Microdisney, Eddie and the Hot Rods, Otis Redding, The Screaming Blue Messiahs, Scraping Foetus off the Wheel. Groups Outspan had never heard of, never mind heard. Jimmy even had albums by Frank Sinatra and The Monkees. So when Outspan and Derek decided, while Ray was out in the jacks, that their group needed a new direction they both thought of Jimmy. Jimmy knew what was what. Jimmy knew what was new, what was new but wouldn’t be for long and what was going to be new. Jimmy had Relax before anyone had heard of Frankie Goes to Hollywood and he’d started slagging them months before anyone realized that they were no good. Jimmy knew his music. Outspan, Derek and Ray’s group, And And And, was three days old; Ray on the Casio and his little sister’s glockenspiel, Outspan on his brother’s acoustic guitar, Derek on nothing yet but the bass guitar as soon as he’d the money saved.
Roddy Doyle wrote the novel The Commitments in 1987 as the first part of The Barrytown Trilogy which included Doyle's 1990 novel The Snapper and the 1991 novel The Van. The 1991 film adaptation of The Commitments was directed by Alan Parker and starred Robert Arkins as 'Jimmy Rabbitte' along with Colm Meaney, Andrew Strong and Maria Doyle. The film won four BAFTA Awards including for Best Film, Best Director, Best Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Jamie Lloyd's recent West End directing credits include William Shakespeare's Macbeth starring James McAvoy in the title role (Trafalgar Studios 2013), John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi starring Eve Best (Old Vic Theatre 2012), Douglas Carter Beane's The Little Dog Laughed starring Tamsin Greig and Rupert Friend (Garrick Theatre 2010), Richard Greenberg's Three Days of Rain starring James McAvoy, Nigel Harman and Lyndsey Marshal (Apollo Theatre 2009), Pam Gems' play with songs Piaf starring Elena Roger in the title role (Donmar Warehouse Theatre and Vaudeville Theatre 2008) and Harold Pinter's double bill The Lover and The Collection starring Richard Coyle, Charlie Cox, Gina McKee and Timothy West (Harold Pinter Theatre 2008).
The Commitments in London previewed from 21 September 2013, opened on 8 October 2013 and closes on 1 November 2015.