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Theatre Review: The Commitments ****

Yvonne Paterson reviews 'a punchy, fun musical'.

The touring production of Roddy Doyle’s The Commitments is a punchy, fun musical, teeming with jukebox classics from the 1950’s and 60’s which opens with the vibrant number ‘Proud Mary’ full of fun, strong vocals and a natural banter between the cast, setting the tone for the performance ahead.

The Commitments tells the story of young Jimmy, a working-class lad from Dublin who has a love for music. When his friends come to him after a disappointing attempt at busking, Jimmy decides to put a band together. He knows what he wants and after a number of comical doorbell auditions he finally finds the right musicians to join his band—albeit a little amateur and somewhat rough around the edges. With determination and a lot of practice they begin to find their feet—or in this case beat—and are soon well on their way to hopefully becoming the finest soul band Dublin has ever produced.

This is a truly talented cast, and each performer gives a stand-out performance both individually and as a coherent group—the attention to detail, from the smallest gestures and deliberate character choices, make the characters likeable and relatable. James Killeen is charismatic in the role as Jimmy. He has real stage presence, and it feels like there is a genuine friendship between him and his fellow cast mates with his energy matching theirs. Ian McIntosh gives an outstanding performance as Deco, the band’s self-destructive lead singer. McIntosh brings the right amount of arrogance to the role but at the same time is still likeable as he has a real cheeky chap persona about him. McIntosh’s vocals are on point, making him a pleasure to watch as he tackles the numbers and riffs with ease and makes it look effortless. Also of note is Ronnie Yorke as Mickah, the skin head bully who almost steals the show. His portrayal is comical, and he never misses a beat …both in comic timing and when he gets the chance on the drums.

Elevating this production even more is Tim Blazdell’s fantastic set design. Originally presenting itself as a drab outdoor view of a block of flats, it surprises as it cleverly unfolds, taking you with the band and Jimmy to each venue: be it the bar, the rehearsal room or Jimmy’s da’s arm chair cove.

The script is very funny. However, the storyline does feel rushed, more so in act two. What happens between the band feels abrupt—which is a little disappointing—and also the dialogue is sometimes lost, making it difficult to sometimes keep up.

However, even taking this all into consideration, there is no doubt that The Commitments is a fantastic production that is nothing short than good for the soul.

Performing at Edinburgh Playhouse until December 3, at the Glasgow Royal from December 5-10 and then continuing its UK tour into July 2023.

Tags: theatre music

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