MusicalSouth West

The Commitments – Bristol Hippodrome

Reviewer: Francesca Parker

Book: The Commitments – Roddy Doyle

Director: Andrew Linnie

Based on Robbie Doyle’s novel and the 1990s cult-classic film, by the same name, the stage production of The Commitments comes to the Bristol Hippodrome for one week only.

Set in 1986 Dublin, passionate Jimmy Rabbitte (James Killeen) is desperate to form a band and bring music to the masses. By music, he is not talking about ‘mundane’ mainstream chart music that frequents their radios, he means soul music – the stuff that courses through the veins of the American people. In order to fulfil his ambition, he requires a talented bunch of misfit musicians to make it happen. Enter the band and, most importantly, Deco ‘the Soul Man’ Cuffe (Ian McIntosh), a drunken and disorganised lead vocalist, who helps to take them ‘Mountain High’.

The production itself has no star quality but each of the components fulfils its function. The set is minimalist and offers a brief split-level glimpse of a North-side Dublin housing estate. Due to the lack of social context explored or contained within the plot, the set rides heavily on the assumption that the audience is familiar with the film (or are of an age that would understand what life in Dublin was like during the 80s). Alice Lessing’s costumes are fitting, they suit the era and setting, and the props are practical – collectively it all works just fine. Equally effective, but perhaps not always convincing are the Dubliner accents. Though it must be said that James’ Killeen’s accent is as authentic as it gets, having been born and raised in Dublin.

The heart of the production lies, rather importantly for the audience, in the music. It is what makes it memorable. What is most remarkable about The Commitments is the unrelenting and instantly recognisable numbers that the cast do more than justice to: including, Proud Mary, Try a Little Tenderness and Papa Was a Rolling Stone. Ian McIntosh’s voice is phenomenal; equally brilliant is Ciara Mackey in the role of Imelda. All told, the calibre of the cast and their energetic performance is the glue that holds this jukebox together.

Ultimately, the show is a cavalcade of musical madness, a tour de force of Motown Hits and a much-needed dose of endorphins for all those struggling with the long winter days.

Runs Until: 25th March ’23

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Motown Gold

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The Southwest team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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