The Irish writer says: “The original Theatrical Commitments show in 2013, was a wonderful experience in my view.” He remained in the West End for more than two years. Then she set off on a successful tour.”
Now a new nine-month tour of the UK and Ireland will begin, starting in Churchill, Bromley, today, and coming to rest at Brighton’s Theater Royal next July.
Nigel Pivaro—former beloved rogue Terry Duckworth on Coronation Street from 1983 to 2012—will take the pivotal role of Da, Jimmy Rabbit’s father.
It will be directed by Andrew Lenny, saxophonist Dean in the original West End production and then Jimmy Rabbit himself on tour.
For the original West End production, Rudy lived in London for 12 weeks, attending rehearsals daily and rewriting daily.
“I attended every preview and then the meetings the next day where we discussed what was working and what wasn’t working.
“My role this time was less important, but my reading attendance was great. It all came back to me.”
Did he feel an emotional return to this first work of fiction?
“It brought back so many memories. I was a geography and English teacher when I wrote the novel. I wanted an excuse to bring a group of young people together in book form and catch the rhythm of Dublin children barking, teasing and bullying.”
“But I needed to find a place outside the school and that’s when I came up with the idea for the band.
“A big band with a brass section and backing vocals compared to three or four guys which was the norm at the time.”
Rudy resisted the temptation to update the procedure.
“The vitality is still there but the tension is from a lack of communication. For example, will Deco, the obnoxious lead singer, be on time?
“These days, you can track it down on your mobile phone in no time at all. But there was no such option in the late 1980s.
“And I chose ’60s music, Motown and Soul Memphis, because at the time it felt timeless—and 35 years later I was right.”
For a long time Rudy was a teacher who wrote on the side.
“I loved teaching and the holidays were great, a time when I used to write. I wrote Commitments in 1986.
“It was published the following year and I was working on the script in 1988. But I was still teaching until 1993.”
Followed by Snapper and The Van in 1990 and 1991 respectively, along with the commitments, form what is known as the Barrytown Trilogy.
Then, in 1993, Rudy won the grand prize. His novel, Paddy Clark ha ha, about a raging 10-year-old boy living in north Dublin fast in 1968, won the prestigious Booker Prize. Rudy was 35 years old.
“I was delighted, though I don’t remember what I said in the acceptance speech.
“But I do remember being taken away for an interview when all I wanted to do was go back to the table and share the moment with my wife and the publisher.
“I felt like I was going to become public property and I didn’t like it.
“What I wanted most of all was to go back to Ireland and live as close to a normal life as possible. I kept using public transport on purpose, for example. But now, 30 years later, I can take it all my way.”
Pick up any of the early books, in particular, and you might be about to read a screenplay.
“That’s right. I think the best way to create characters is to get them to talk.
“This is especially true of commitments – and it gave me a template that I’ve used for several years. We talk a lot in Ireland.”
He has an loft office in his house where he writes. But since the lockdown was lifted, he’s been given a room downtown where he will also write.
“I was shocked by the idea of getting out of the house and walking around and experiencing the openness of Dublin, and coming back to life again. It was really interesting.
“Also, my kids have grown up and no longer live at home.
“So I am not surrounded by the rhythm of their conversation.”
It is a disciplined approach to work, usually writing from nine to six every day. “But I’ve become more relaxed as I get older. There’s nothing as beautiful as going to the movies in broad daylight. And I never feel guilty.”
Whatever happens next, The Commitments will always hold a special place in Roddy’s heart for the simple reason that it was his first published book.
At 64, Rudy is still prolific with 12 novels, three collections of stories, eight children’s books, a book he co-authored with Roy Keane, and of course a musical under his belt, so retirement seems unlikely.
He was once quoted as saying that he hoped to die in the middle of his sentence. Laugh. “Well, it might be a good idea to come to a full stop.”