The show opens tomorrow night.
The previews have been running for more than two weeks. I went home to Dublin for a weekend but, other than that, I’ve been here, in the Palace Theatre, every night, and twice last Saturday. But, actually, the word ‘twice’ is a bit meaningless, because I haven’t seen the same show twice.
Changes – some drastic, some tiny – have been made every day. A song has, rightly, gone into the bin, and whole chunks of dialogue. Lines have been added; lights have been shifted. One song has a new ending; an onstage salesman has become a milkman. A bus stop logo has been replaced: ‘1986’ has been added to a line.
1986 was when I wrote The Commitments. Onstage, Jimmy announces the band’s first gig, reciting poster-copy: ‘Saturday 24 March, 1986. In Barrytown Community Centre. The Hardest Working Band in the World. The Saviours of Soul. The Commitments. Bringing The People’s Music To The People.’
I first wrote those lines on the 24th of the March, 1986. Now … Read More »
The Singing Rabbitte:
I didn’t smile during the first half. I’m referring to the Chelsea-Fulham match, not The Commitments. But it’s true of both events.
I went to the Chelsea game last Saturday, to take my mind off the first preview of The Commitments. It didn’t really work. The football was bad and the man beside me who kept shouting, ‘You’re not farking Arsenal!’, stopped being amusing after the seventh or eighth roar.
I left at half-time. It wasn’t a protest. It had been a late kick-off – 5.30pm – and I had to get to the Palace Theatre by 7.30pm, for the preview. Chelsea scored twice while I was on the Tube, so my departure was a stroke of tactical genius that Jose Mourinho failed to acknowledge after the game.
But, anyway, I went from one event that irritated me – I usually love being at Stamford Bridge – to … Read More »
The Singing Rabbitte:
I went to have a look at the Black Market Clash exhibition on Berwick Street a few nights ago, during a break in rehearsals in the Palace Theatre. I didn’t have much time, but I didn’t need much. It’s a quick, witty charge through images and sound – a bit like a Clash song. But it got me thinking about the past and the present and the music we take with us from then to now.
There’s a line in the Commitments script that the young actor playing Jimmy Rabbitte, Denis Grndel, has been saying again and again for the last six weeks of rehearsals: ‘They’re finished, Outspan. Believe me.’ He’s talking about U2, in 1986. But the line isn’t in the novel, which I wrote in 1986.
So, am I cheating? I’m giving Jimmy a look at the future. … Read More »
The Singing Rabbitte:
I’m in London, for rehearsals of a musical version of my novel, The Commitments. I wrote the book – the book of the book; I find it easier thinking of it as the script – so I’ve been here since early August, watching a gang of people construct a show out of lines and details on 127 pages of script.
I’m staying in Earl’s Court and usually enter the Tube station from the Warwick Road side, at the Exhibition Centre. On Friday I walked into the station and saw hundreds of women coming at me. Hundreds of women, and one man. I looked back at the Exhibition Centre to see what was on: the Bake and Cake Show.
The women all looked like keen cake eaters and the man, about my age, maybe a bit younger, was holding hands with, actually clinging to one of them. He looked terrified, like a kid afraid he’d lose his mammy in the crowd.
I … Read More »
Jimmy Rabbitte is knackered. He’s living the lives of two men. But he only seems to have the energy of the older one.
And that’s the problem. The younger Jimmy is running him ragged. He’s up on a stage all day, in a theatre in London called the Palace. He’s in a musical, for fuck sake, and it’s opening in a few weeks. He’s the Jimmy Jimmy used to be when he was a kid. It’s kind of nice to see him again, even to be him again. But it’s killing him.
How did he manage back in the ’80s without a mobile phone? He had to go places, actually meet people, wait ages for people and buses, find a pay phone – find a pay phone that fuckin’ worked. It was a full time job, just communicating. How did he cope?
These days, if he can’t find the remote control, he wouldn’t … Read More »
It’s been a brilliant summer. The summers in the ’80s, like most things about the ’80s, were shite.
Jimmy Rabbitte doesn’t really believe that, about the ’80s. It just seems to come natural. Whenever the ’80s get mentioned, you have to slag them, or it. But the ’80s were no worst than now. Although, granted, he never experienced the ’90s, or the ’00s, because Doyle wasn’t using him; he was kind of on the fictional dole, being kept asleep in the spare room in the back of Doyle’s head.
The ’00s – is that how you refer to the last decade? No one seems to know and a decade without an agreed name can’t have been that fuckin’ great.
Anyway. It’s a bit chillier in the early mornings but three of his four kids have gone back to school.
And that worries Jimmy.
He’s … Read More »
Jimmy Rabbitte can’t get his head around it.
He’d spent most of the last twenty-five years in the spare room in the back of Doyle’s head. He was 21, kind of frozen, dormant. He was in there with Paddy Clarke; and he’s an insufferable little bollix, that fella.
Next thing, Jimmy was brought out of the spare room and thrown into a brand new book, The Guts. He was middle-aged, with teenage kids, grey hair and a dollop of cancer.
But – and this is the bit that’s keeping him awake – at the exact same time, he’s gone back to being young Jimmy Rabbitte and he’s forming The Commitments again. He’s managing the band, he’s watching them play and loving it while, at the same time, in The Guts, he’s remembering how they broke up years ago and he’s meeting Outspan Foster, the guitarist, for the first time in twenty years.
This – the two lives of Jimmy Rabbitte – is happening because Doyle … Read More »
‘What was it like going back to Jimmy?’
Jimmy Rabbitte has been listening to that question, again and again and a-fuckin’-gain, for the last month. Journalists, radio presenters, even your woman, the sexy one from Scotland who used to do the news on BBC2 – they’ve all been asking Doyle why he’d decided to start writing about Jimmy again. One of them had even asked why he’d – listen to this – why Doyler had ‘resurrected’ Jimmy.
For fuck sake.
No one has asked Jimmy what it feels like being fuckin’ resurrected.
Because he’s fictional.
He’s had to go from studio to studio, down to the basement, into the bowels of the Palace Theatre in London – that’s another fuckin’ story – and up to the Edinburgh Book Festival, hidden away in Doyle’s fuckin’ man bag. And he’s had to endure Doyle’s explanation, nearly word for word every time, sometimes five, six or seven times a day. And Doyle says he’s sick of it!
Anyway. Jimmy doesn’t care why Doyle has brought … Read More »
Jimmy Rabbitte, suddenly middle-aged and the main character – the fuckin’ protagonist, like – in a novel for the first time in more than 25 years, could look at his wife – his life partner – Aoife, and know that he’d loved her for half his life. Even though he hadn’t. As far as he knew.
How had that happened?
Well, her name hadn’t come out of nowhere, just for this new book, The Guts. She’d been mentioned in one of the old books, The Van. Doyle had written that one in 1990. Jimmy himself was hardly in The Van. It was more about his Da. But there was a mention of Jimmy’s girlfriend. Aoife. His Aoife, like.
He – Doyle – gave her the name, Aoife, because it’s Irish and a lot of middle-class people were giving their kids Irish names … Read More »
Jimmy Rabbitte had never been to a book launch. He’d been in a fair few books but no one ever thought about inviting him to one of the launches.
Because he was fictional.
But anyway. The Commitments launch, back in 1987, was legendary. It had the look of a legend while it was still on.
And there was a reason for that: free drink.
Or, at least Doyle thought it was free.
But anyway. The Commitments was self-published. Back in the days when he had hair and a teacher’s jacket, he couldn’t find a publisher. So one day he said, ‘Fuck it, I’ll do it myself.’ His first-year English class didn’t really know what he meant but, still, they cheered.
Anyway. He got a bank loan – Jimmy had no idea how many times he’d had to listen to this shite – and himself and his friend, John Sutton, published the … Read More »