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Commitments actor Andrew Linnie: ‘You have to risk things going wrong for something to go right’

Andrew Linnie Andrew Linnie

When The Commitments star Denis Grindel injured his knees during the show’s West End run, chorus member Andrew Linnie was asked – with only a few hours’ notice – if he could step in to play leading role Jimmy Rabbitte. After playing the part for a week in the West End, Linnie is set to return for the show’s tour of the UK and Ireland. He talks to David Hutchison about how taking risks can pay off.

Has anything in the show changed for the tour?

The show is essentially the same thing, the core of the show is still there. However, not only does it have to be adapted for touring, but any opportunity to put in a new cast and give the show a new lease of life is good. It means the creative team can come in and tighten things up where there was room for improvement before. If it were just exactly the same thing – carbon copy and throw it on the road – then maybe the attention to detail wouldn’t be as great, and the process would be more difficult because you’re just trying to regurgitate things.

How did it feel, to take on a role you’ve never played before in front of an audience?

I mean adrenaline just kicks in doesn’t it? Instinct takes over. I’d been in the show at that stage for more than a year and half, so there was a certain amount of osmosis going on there – the lines having gone in over 600 or so performances. But the process that day – being called at lunchtime and having to be on at 7:30 – was pretty quick. There was no rehearsal on stage, there wasn’t the time and apace to get a proper rehearsal in. So I did have an hour, an hour and a half with the deputy stage manager where we basically tried to avoid me getting hit by the scenery. It was a lot of traffic management and knowing where to stand. I had to have a quick motorbike rehearsal, because I’d never driven the motorbike in the show – or a motorbike full stop – before. So it was a pretty frenetic three or four hours from the time I got the call to the time when he rest of the cast came in and we were in warm-up.

What was that first show like?

It all happened very quickly and I don’t remember a huge amount. I remember one or two bits that went wrong, I remember one or two bits that went well. There were a few moments when I thought: “Oh God, which part am I at now?” But it’s happened a lot in the last year, with Funny Girl and Linda at the Royal Court, when Noma [Dumezweni] went on very quickly having not been in the show at all. So it’s been the year of the understudy, or the year of the have-a-go-hero. And in those situations the rest of the cast absolutely steps up. And I supposed it’s probably quite a healthy thing for the company as well, when it forces you to listen and pay attention to what’s going on, rather than just going through the motions. Which, unfortunately, can happen if you’re in a show for a year, two years, three years, you know?

What’s the best piece of advice you have for up and coming actors?

I don’t think it was a conscious decision, but when I got the call saying, “Can you play the part tonight having never rehearsed it?”, the first word out of my mouth was: “Yes.” I didn’t even think about it, I just blurted it out and thought I’d worry about the consequences afterwards. I suppose that’s taught me something: you have to take a dive and risk things going wrong in order for something to go right.


CV: Andrew Linnie

Training: MA in musical theatre, Royal Academy of Music (2012-2013)
First professional role: The Pirates of Penzance, Buxton Opera House (2010)
Agent: Barry Burnett, Burnett Crowther

The Commitments is on tour until April 2017

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