The Commitments’
By Roddy Doyle
Directed by Andrew Linnie
Royal & Derngate

This feel-good celebration of soul is an uplifting portrayal of how ‘The Commitments’ came to be. Based on Roddy Doyle’s novel and 1991 motion picture, we follow a riotous Irish band whose talent is compromised by the bandmate’s rocky relationships.

Curtains open and stage in full view, we are greeted with actors putting up dated Christmas decorations, adorning the otherwise quite minimalist set. Sporting Christmas hats, the actors mingled until the lights came down over the auditorium and lit up the stage with festive red and green. ‘Proud Mary’ was the first iconic track to be performed; in true Christmas karaoke style; singing into beer bottles and packing it full of energy both physically and emotionally! It is in this opening moment that we meet our protagonist Jimmy Rabbitte, played by James Killeen, a young working-class music fan who dreams of starting the finest soul band Dublin has ever produced!

The set, designed by Tim Blazdell felt wholly appropriate and transported us to the distressed streets of Dublin. Six separate sections were all utilised slightly differently to showcase differing settings throughout the production. Central was Jimmy’s home, with some very classic 80’s floral wallpaper and the telephone which became a staple prop. The clever use of staging not only supported the action but enabled me as an audience member to focus on the story and musical numbers without being too distracted.

After holding auditions, Jimmy settles on a rather interesting mix of individuals for his band and tasks them with learning more about the genre. The misfits begin rehearsing which is where the fun really starts! Over confident Deco, played by the extremely talented and pitch perfect Ian McIntosh clashing with the likes of simple Derek, played by the brilliant Guy Freeman and Ryan Kelly the emotionally charged drummer, Billy. Friction continues throughout which adds to the overall enjoyment and gives a sense of light-hearted tension. At times it felt like a miracle that this group ever succeeded! Perhaps it was the soul that kept them together… perhaps the Guinness?!

This production is less of a musical but more of a play with musical numbers placed within. The narrative is driven by the scenes and the enjoyment of this performance is through the comical moments and big musical numbers such as ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ and ‘Mustang Sally’. This production is perfectly cast and the musical talent shone through. The show will have you singing along throughout and the popular tracks will bring back some memories!

The storyline is not complex but feels honest and thanks to its superb music and hugely talented cast, ‘The Commitments’ is an uplifting dose of nostalgia and a celebration of a catalogue of songs which will never age.

Last seen in London in 2015, The Commitments has been touring the UK and can be viewed at the Derngate until Saturday 15th April, with performances at 7:30pm and 2:30pm showings on Wednesday 12th and Saturday 15th April.
Tickets priced from £28 – can be booked by calling the Royal & Derngate Box Office on 01604 624811 or online at

Review written by Rachel Carnell: The Travel Locker Press Team