(Seen at the performance on 22nd October 2013)
Hoping for a magic leprechaun of a show, the monkey found instead a garden
gnome. A plastic one at that. Worth a glance for a brief period of amusement,
but ultimately hollow and lacking promised substance.
“The Commitments,” film and book, has always been a monkey favourite – and it
had always envisaged what a stage version would be like. Set to be the highlight
of its autumn 2013 season, it was going to be a pushover for the production to
entertain, no work needed.
And oh, how disappointed it was.
In a way, it was lucky to see the show to begin with. Literally. Some (to
quote regional dialect) “Bollix” decided it was a brilliant idea to dazzle
arriving audiences with a curtain of stage lights pointed directly at them...
and make certain of retinal damage by adding re-enforcements later in the show.
Hopefully this genius will be locked in a dark room until they come to their
senses; and in this compensation culture (not something the monkey approves of,
normally) it honestly hopes somebody sues for the avoidable stupidity.
The rest of the set is about as intelligent. Sure, it creates the right
atmosphere of 80s Dublin depression... but does half the show need to be at a
level so high the front and rear stalls miss it? The actors seemed to fight
against it, and the show only burst into life when concentrated on a mid-stage
ground level set – where it could have played happily from the start.
And it is played. Live, by a bunch of performers clearly chosen for their
musical skills before their suitability for the roles. Hoplessly miscast, our
guide for the evening, Denis Grindel gives us a Jimmy Rabbitt lacking
‘survivor’s vitality’ and street-smarts the role requires. Joe Woolmer’s Mickah
is a ‘dead ringer’ for Ade Edmondson in “The Young Ones” and is about as
threatening, while Matthew Wycliffe singularly fails to find the arrogance in
Outspan and Ben Fox the worldly randy opportunist / fatherly dichotomy of Joey.
You can’t blame him for not getting as excited about “The Commitmentettes” as
the story demands, either. Irish women are world-renowned for great genes...
this show singularly failed to capitalise on those assets.
And for all this, the blame lies at the doors of Roddy Doyle (adaptor of his
own work) and Jamie Lloyd (director). Doyle manages to produce something that
dumps his wonderful characterisations in favour of a bunch of disparate ciphers
who fail to demonstrate even a scintilla of reason for their
Lloyd may be the reason. The vital opening scenes defining characters are
rushed at incoherent speed, in order to reach a dull “let’s do a few bits of
some famous songs” rehearsal session that takes up most of the rest of the first
Act two then takes the laziest way out possible, mostly concerned with a
Louis-Walsh-old (yes, that tired and worn, really!) cliché “let’s stage a
concert” / “let’s stretch the show by pretending we are staging another concert,
this time in London” manoeuvre replacing much further dramatic tension or
It’s actual production standard is high enough – the sound balance is
acceptable, it looks good for all its sightline faults, and it isn’t
relentlessly boring. But
nor is it particularly involving either. The “out for a good time with familiar
songs” section of the audience seemed happy enough, thinking they’d had a good
time as they were ordered to their feet for the last 10 minutes... But as a
....Just 100 yards from the Palace Theatre, another bunch of Dublin
youngsters are producing a level of dazzling enchantment that the Monkey has
raved about since March. The Giant’s Causeway compared to block paving. Show
your commitment to great Irish musical theatre... Monkey advice is go see “Once”