Time Out rating:
<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
Time Out says
Posted: Wed Oct 9 2013
In these straitened times, nothing gets bums on West End seats like a stage adaptation of a blockbuster film or novel. And this show, of course, comes trailing both: Roddy Doyle’s 1987 novel about a motley group of working-class Irish lads and lasses who form a raucous soul band; and Alan Parker’s 1991 mega-hit film version.
Among the growing crop of film-to-stage adaptations, there are many that smack of cynicism (stand up, ‘The Bodyguard’). No such criticism can be levelled here. This is a handsome production, assembled by a talented team: Doyle wrote the stage adaptation, and designer Soutra Gilmour is one of the best in the business − her set does a brilliant job of rooting the show in 1980s working-class Dublin, with dingy launderettes and garage rehearsal rooms sliding on and off stage beneath an estate’s looming façade.
Director Jamie Lloyd − fresh from acclaimed productions of ‘Macbeth’ and ‘The Pride’− runs the show at a sparky pace, with the action often taking place in several areas of the stage at once. It’s all impressively slick, and the cast are fantastic − it’s impossible not to get swept up in their high-energy renditions of soul classics, from ‘Knock on Wood’ to ‘Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone’.
But ultimately, that’s really all this show has: a succession of great soul numbers, held together by the flimsiest of plots. As trumpeter Joey (Ben Fox) points out, “Soul is the rhythm of the people” − and part of the appeal of Doyle’s novel lay in translating that rhythm from oppressed, black America to working-class, white Ireland. But the show barely engages with the political significance of its setting, and the characters are little more than sketches. The result is a highly enjoyable crowd-pleaser − but it could have been so much more.
By Laura Barnett