Monday 22 January 2018

Kirsty Blake-Knox: How I cursed my way into a 'Commitments' cameo

Kirsty Blake Knox during her cameo role Photo: Gerry Mooney
Kirsty Blake Knox during her cameo role Photo: Gerry Mooney
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

Curly Watts. I am going to be acting alongside Curly Watts. On stage at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre.

Corrie's Curly; the protégé of Reg Holdsworth and the reliable assistant manager of Bettabuy, Firman's Freezers and Freshco.

Noble Curly - whose heart had been cruelly smashed when Raquel ditched him and moved to Kuala Lumpar to become an aromatherapist.

In case it passed you by, our Curly (Kevin Kennedy) is currently starring in 'The Commitments The Musical' as Jimmy Rabbitte's Da.

The West End show is in the middle of its Dublin run and will shortly head across the seas to England. For one night only, I am allowed to make a fleeting cameo in the show.

And I have a line. A line! How exciting! "And what, pray, will I be saying?" I ask the PR.

Kirsty Blake Knox with Kevin Kennedy Photo: Gerry Mooney
Kirsty Blake Knox with Kevin Kennedy Photo: Gerry Mooney

"You shall say 'Merry Christmas - you b**lix' in a thick northside Dublin accent," she replies.

This is a problem. I do a very shoddy Dublin accent - despite coming from the capital. However, I am determined to shine so ask my northside colleagues for a little coaching.

"You're putting too much emphasis on the b**lix," one of them explains. "Less enunciating, more attitude."

Notes taken, I begin to fantasize about my cameo. Would it be too much if I joined the cast on stage for the final curtain call? Should I get a perm? Did I have an arse like Imelda Quirke?

I must admit I've never actually seen 'The Commitments'. But I have heard people quote Joey the Lips so often the movie has become like cinematic wallpaper - always in the background.

On Wednesday, I arrive at the stage door full of vim and vigour. We start with a warm up lunging series and I immediately regret wearing a denim mini skirt.

Curly (!!!) comes over, shakes my hand and walks me through the scene.

It is Christmas and we are in a pub, a woman sings 'Proud Mary', Deco falls off a stool, Curly and I march down stage and shout out the line, everyone cheers and then I am whisked off stage. "That's it," Curly says. "Apart from the soliloquy - you have learnt the soliloquy haven't you?" I shake my head and he squeezes my shoulder. "I'm joking," he says. My nervousness is replaced with excitement. I can't mess up, not with Curly Watts by my side.

We head up to wardrobe - I thought I'd be wearing either a multi-coloured jumpsuit or a velvet ra-ra skirt. But no, I am handed a beige Fair Isle cardigan, horn-rimmed glasses and a Santa hat.

Kirsty Blake Knox in wardrobe Photo: Gerry Mooney
Kirsty Blake Knox in wardrobe Photo: Gerry Mooney

It hits me that I am no Imelda Quirke. I am Barb from 'Stranger Things'.

The stage manager brings me downstairs and I call into everyone's dressing rooms.

"See you on the pitch," Deco says and I go wait in the wings. People have started to file into the auditorium, Curly joins me and we walk onto the stage and into the make believe pub.

Curly and the bar man chat about going to The Ferryman the night before. It had been a late one.

More actors crowd onto the stage. I'm very giddy now. Everyone begins singing and I shout "la-la-la" because I don't know the words and I've decided my character Rose is a lush.

Deco falls off his chair and Curly leads me forward and I shout the line. And suddenly it's over and I am taken off stage and upstairs and everyone tells me I did great.

Back in my normal clothes I slink into the stalls to watch the show. It feels comforting and oddly familiar. Yes, some of the lines have dated and seem out of place, but it doesn't really matter. The musical captures the energy, urgency and excitement of Dublin. It also captures the sclerotic and sluggish undercurrent - that push and pull of old and new that makes the city what it is.

'The Commitments' runs until October 29

Irish Independent

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