An interview with Andrew Linnie, star of The Commitments
"It's one of those things where adrenaline takes over and although it was fun and exciting I don't really remember a huge amount of the first show I did as Jimmy."
Andrew Linnie stars as Jimmy Rabbitte in The Commitments UK tour, playing at New Theatre Oxford until 14th January. Here he talks Dublin, Roddy Doyle, and his favourite part of the show.
For anyone who isn't familiar with the story, what is The Commitments about and who are you playing?
The Commitments is about a group of young people from Dublin in the 1980s who form a soul band to try and escape the poverty trap they've been growing up in. I play Jimmy Rabbitte, the one who starts and manages the band and who, as the egos clash and tempers flare, has to try and keep the show on the road.
Tell us a bit about your history performing in The Commitments.
I made my West End debut with the show when it opened in September 2013, playing Dean Fay, the sax player in the band who spirals off on his own path to a jazz career. I played that role for over two years. During that time at one point both the lead actor playing Jimmy and the two understudies were off due to illness or injury and I was given the call and asked if I'd play Jimmy that night.
How was that experience for you?
It was really exciting, but it was very last minute. I'd never actually had a rehearsal in the part, so I was too busy trying to remember where to stand so I wouldn't be hit by the set as it moved around me. It's one of those things where adrenaline takes over and although it was fun and exciting I don't really remember a huge amount of the first show I did as Jimmy. Thankfully I got to play the role for another few nights that week and I had a chance to enjoy it more, plus I now get to play him for the whole tour so the risk paid off!
Were you familiar with the story before it came to be a stage show?
I'd seen the film, I think almost every Irish person has, it's part of our national psyche. Roddy Doyle's books and influence are huge, as a Man Booker winner and such a big international success he's hugely influential, so it's hard not to be familiar with it growing up in Dublin.
And Roddy Doyle adapted The Commitments for the stage…
Yes, it’s great to have had so much input from him, and his adaptation works really well for stage with subtle changes to the dialogue here and there to get the most out of the theatre setting. The adaptation is a combination of the book and the film, so you get the best of both worlds; Roddy’s wit and dialogue and a brilliant soul back catalogue. In two years of performing the show in London, the likes of 'Mustang Sally' and 'Try a Little Tenderness' have never failed to get people going!
What is your favourite part of the show?
Oh that's tough! I think it's probably when the band come together and play for the first time, and they become more than the sum of their parts. I think playing music together with other people for the first time is one of the most exciting things a musician gets to do, and that scene really captures it. Although ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’ is one of my favourite songs so I'd have to say that is one of my favourite bits too.
And are you looking forward to bringing the show to Oxford?
Yes I am, I moved straight from Dublin to London and that’s all I really know, so it’s great to see places around the UK that I’ve never had the opportunity to visit before, and with the show predominantly in the evenings, it leaves a lot of time for sight seeing in the daytime.
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