Commitment to be an actor leads to a West End musical

Herald Series: The cast of The Commitments, from left, Brian Gilligan, Barnaby Southgate, Ben Fox, Andrew Linnie, Jessica Cervi, Denis Grindel, Matthew Wycliffe, Steph McKeon, Sarah O’Connor, Mark Dugdale, Killian Donnelly and Joe Woolmer The cast of The Commitments, from left, Brian Gilligan, Barnaby Southgate, Ben Fox, Andrew Linnie, Jessica Cervi, Denis Grindel, Matthew Wycliffe, Steph McKeon, Sarah O’Connor, Mark Dugdale, Killian Donnelly and Joe Woolmer

WHEN Barnaby Southgate was a baby, his mum made a book for him in which she wrote “this child loves to be the centre of attention, he is going to be an actor”.

Her prediction came true – he is now playing a leading role in new musical The Commitments in London’s West End.

Mr Southgate, 25, from Letcombe Bassett near Wantage, gets to sing the blues every night at the Palace Theatre.

Roddy Doyle’s 1987 novel, turned into a 1991 film, tells the story of a group of 20-somethings in 1980s Dublin who aim to hit the big time with a soul band.

Mr Southgate, who went to King Alfred’s Academy in Wantage, plays James Clifford, a medical student who moonlights as the band’s hard-rocking pianist.

His mum Annie, 53, who has been to see the show five times with dad David, said: “Of course, we’re incredibly proud of him.”

His success has also inspired his sister Millie, 17, who goes to St Helen and St Katharine School, Abingdon, and now wants to be an actor, and their brother Callum, 22, who is studying film at the Gloucestershire University.

The grade eight piano player performs all his own parts live. But when it came to mastering the Dublin accent, he had to work a bit harder.

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He said: “I spent weeks watching Father Ted every night and searching YouTube for videos of people from Dublin speaking.

“I still wouldn’t go into a working class pub in Dublin and try to convince the regulars I’m Irish.”

But he managed to convince the book’s author in auditions and, after months of call-backs, he got the part.

He said: “It was the longest audition process I have had. I spent weeks just waiting for my phone to ring.”

The play opened on September 21, and is set to run until September.

When it opened, the script stayed faithful to Mr Doyle’s novel, which includes some very colourful language. But the amount of swearing has been slashed to keep it family friendly.

For Mr Southgate, who lives in London, appearing in the West End every night is rapidly becoming just a job.

He said: “I can go from standing on the stage, getting a standing ovation from 1,500 people, to sitting on the underground going home in 10 minutes.”

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