The Commitments (novel)

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The Commitments
First Edition
AuthorRoddy Doyle
IllustratorDerek Spiers
Cover artistCharlie O’Neill
SeriesThe Barrytown Trilogy
PublisherKing Farouk (Dublin)
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Followed byThe Snapper 

The Commitments (1987) (originally to be called The Partitions[1]) is a novel by Irish writer Roddy Doyle, and is the first episode in The Barrytown Trilogy. It is a tale about a group of unemployed young people in the north side of Dublin, Ireland, who start a soul band.

Plot summary[edit]

Two friends — Derek Scully and "Outspan" Foster — get together to form a band, but soon realise that they don't know enough about the music business to get much further than their small neighbourhood in the Northside of Dublin. To solve this problem, they recruit a friend they'd had from school, Jimmy Rabbitte, to be their manager. He accepts graciously, but only if he can make fundamental changes to the group, the first being the sacking of the third, and mutually disliked, member — their synth player. After this, Rabbitte gets rid of their name, making them "The Commitments" (stating "All the good 60s bands started with a 'the'") and, most importantly, forming them from another synthpop group into the face of what he thinks will be the Dublin-Soul revolution. ("Yes, Lads. You'll be playing Dublin Soul!")

He witnesses a young man singing drunkenly into a microphone at a friend's wedding and is struck by the fact he is singing "something approximating music". Jimmy places an ad in the local paper reading "Have you got soul? Then Dublin's hardest working band is looking for you". Eventually, he gets together a mismatched group with seemingly no musical talent, led by mysterious stranger Joey "The Lips" Fagan, who claims to have played trumpet with Joe Tex and the Four Tops. They quickly start learning how to play their instruments and perform a number of local gigs.

With music fanatic Jimmy Rabbite as their manager, the Commitments seek to fulfil their goal of bringing soul to Dublin. In the beginning, Jimmy includes all of the country Ireland, but later realises that the culchies have everything whereas the Dubliners are the working-class and have nothing. Bringing soul music to Ireland is then reduced merely to the city.

  • Steven "James" Clifford – Pianist
  • Imelda Quirke – Backing vocalist
  • Natalie Murphy – Backing vocalist
  • Mickah Wallace – Bouncer/2nd drummer
  • Bernie McGloughin – Backing vocalist
  • Dean Fay – Saxophonist
  • Liam "Outspan" Foster – Guitarist
  • Billy Mooney – 1st drummer (quit because he couldn't stand Deco)
  • Joey "The Lips" Fagan – Trumpet
  • Derek Scully – Bassist
  • Declan "Deco" Cuffe – Lead Vocalist

Tensions run high between the band members, not helped by the jealousy and animosity Joey receives from other male members due to the attention he receives from the female backing singers. The band slowly becomes more and more musically competent and draws bigger and more enthusiastic audiences. But the band falls apart after a gig when Joey is seen kissing Imelda and a fight ensues — all while Jimmy is negotiating to record the band's first single with an independent label.

Fagan soon goes to America after Imelda tells him she is pregnant (it turns out she was actually lying, only saying this for the attention). In the end, Jimmy, along with the band's other founding members and Mickah, form The Brassers, an Irish hybrid of punk and country. They plan on inviting James into the band after he's finished his medical degree, and they discuss getting the ladies involved as well.


The film, book, and soundtrack were all hugely popular in the 90s, and a group containing some of the film's actors still tours. There are some differences between the book and film, the most obvious being that the novel was composed mostly of dialogue, with hardly any physical description; the movie concentrated much more on the collapse of Dublin's inner city. Unlike the film, which could be categorized as comedy-drama, the book was almost entirely comedic.



The Commitments is a 1991 comedy-drama film directed by Alan Parker with a screenplay adapted by Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais, and Doyle himself,[2] The Commitments was an international co-production between companies in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It was filmed on location in Dublin.[3]

Stage production[edit]

A musical stage production of the novel, also titled The Commitments, played in London's West End at the Palace Theatre from 2013[4][5] to 2015.

Following the 1991 film adaptation,[6] Doyle said he received 20 different offers to turn the novel into a musical. He turned them all down because he had become resentful of the success of The Commitments, to the seeming exclusion of his other novels; and because he was not a fan of musical theatre, having never seen a musical. He eventually changed his mind due to his children, who were fans of the 1991 film, and who took him to see musicals, including a production of the film-turned-musical The Producers, which he called "a revelation".[7][8]

Despite initially looking to hire another writer to write the book for the musical,[9] Doyle ended up writing the show himself.[10] The show was directed by Jamie Lloyd,[11] with choreography by Ann Yee, set design by Soutra Gilmour, sound design by Rory Madden and lightning by Jon Clark.[12]


  1. ^ "Roddy Doyle's rules for writers | Books". The Guardian website. 22 February 2010. Retrieved 29 August 2015.
  2. ^ Gritten, David (11 August 1991). "MOVIES : Irish Soul : How Alan Parker drew upon the working-class kids of Dublin to power his movie 'The Commitments,' about a fictional Irish band". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
  3. ^ The Irish Filmography 1896-1996; Red Mountain Press (Dublin); 1996. Page 200
  4. ^ Brown, Mark (23 April 2013). "Commitments West End". London: The Guardian.
  5. ^ "The Commitments to be turned into musical by Roddy Doyle after novel and film success". Daily Mirror. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  6. ^ "Roddy Doyle's The Commitments becomes West End musical". BBC News. 24 April 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  7. ^ Brown, Mark (23 April 2013). "The Commitments to be turned into West End musical". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  8. ^ "Roddy Doyle on The Commitments musical". The Irish Post. 24 April 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  9. ^ "The Commitments made into West End musical". The Irish News. 24 April 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  10. ^ Bowie-Sell, Daisy (23 April 2013). "Roddy Doyle's The Commitments to be adapted for the stage". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  11. ^ "Roddy Doyle's "The Commitments" finally made into musical". Reuters. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
  12. ^ "Roddy Doyle's The Commitments to open in West End this September". The Stage. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2013.

External links[edit]