A fiery celebration of soul music in the unassuming working-class Dublin; this is a party not to be missed.
Currently on a UK tour, The Commitments spreads some soul as it stops off at Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre. Roddy Doyle’s original novel tells the tale of Jimmy and his starry-eyed dreams of bringing soul to working-class Dublin. To manifest this dream, Jimmy tracks down a rare collection of people who have not been brainwashed by synth-pop, and forms an unlikely band called ‘The Commitments’. This down-to-earth, light-hearted story is riddled with humour, and is carried entirely by its soundtrack of soul classics, which make for a concert-like night out full of singing and dancing.
The show sets off with a punch with the perfect contrast between a plain, dusky scene of a pub in 1980s Dublin and a striking woman in red accompanied by a piano. Despite its little relevance to the plot line, this scene stood out as a favourite, thanks to the phenomenal performance of ‘Proud Mary’, which set the standard high for the remainder of the evening. This visual dichotomy between the dull setting of a run-down street, Jimmy’s plain house, and the bright, fiery musical performances was aesthetically poignant throughout the show, and managed to maintain the political themes of the story without placing too much emphasis on them within speech.
The versatility of the set contributed to much of the story-telling and rapid scene changes which kept the performance at high speed. This was accompanied by an excellent off-stage band, which underlined the entire show, really placing music at the heart of the story. This was particularly effective in the audition sequence, in which a montage of useless auditionees performed a collection of 80s pop songs, which served as hilarious entertainment. Another noteworthy comic contribution was Kevin Kennedy’s performance of Jimmy’s Da’. Bellowing ‘Turn off that shite!’ in almost every scene he graced never failed to make the audience rupture into laughter, and he always kept his one-liners subtle which matched the charm of the simple and casual text.
Surpassing these moments of comedy, however, is undoubtedly the musical performances which continued, without fail, to blind the audience with their power, passion and soul. Amy Penston, Leah Penston and Christina Tedders were captivating in performance, managing to steal audience attention with their unstoppable, strong vocals and charismatic stage presence. This continuous focus on music made the night feel like a gig as opposed to a musical, and the final encore of songs kept the theatre on their feet in the most spectacular and well-earned standing ovation.
This hit west-end musical’s journey of band conflict and the importance of soul truly made its way into the hearts of those in Southampton’s audience. The enjoyment of those on stage is infectious, and a night full of raucous laughter and song is guaranteed.
The Commitments is on at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton from 31st January 2017 – 4th February 2017, before continuing its UK tour. Click here for more details.