Book: Joe Penhall
Music and Lyrics: Ray Davies
Director: Edward Hall
Reviewer: Natasha Hegarty
The Kinks is a band that defined 1960s Britain and one which is still just as influential today. Sunny Afternoon tells the story of how one of Britain’s most iconic bands rose to stardom while the country was battling a huge political and social upheaval. This backdrop is seen throughout as frontman and songwriter Ray Davies constantly wants to stick to their working class roots, despite big labels wanting the band to write more ‘commercial’ songs.
Although it’s a jukebox musical, it certainly has an edge over the rest. The music drives the play and some tracks are performed by other members of the cast which moves the action well and stops it from being a tribute concert. It’s a welcome surprise. Sunny Afternoon sits somewhere between a traditional jukebox musical and a classic musical and the two seem to battle each other, as Ray bursts into snippets of songs throughout, but it actually works really well.
As soon as the opening riff to You Really Got Me is played, everyone is on the edge of their seats. As for the rest of the music, all the popular ones are there: Waterloo Sunset, Dedicated Follower Of Fashion, All Day And All Of The Night and Sunny Afternoon and although it’s tough to top the original band, the guys onstage do a brilliant job.
Ryan O’Donnell as Ray Davies is outstanding in every aspect. His voice is stunning and he nails both the loud rock songs and the several acapella moments beautifully. His acting is also spot on and connects well with everyone, though this connection is especially exceptional when paired with Mark Newnham as his younger brother, Dave. One of the best scenes of the show is between the pair as they have their differences out, highlighting both personal and professional issues in a touching moment. Ray’s performance of Sitting in My Hotel to wife Rasa (Lisa Wright) is lovely; she, too, is wonderful throughout.
Newnham plays party boy Dave brilliantly. Not only is he an incredible guitarist, but his party antics are hilarious. Swinging from a chandelier while brandishing an axe is just the definition of rock and roll, and he rocks a dress as well as anyone.
Miriam Buether has designed a pretty incredible set, with towering speakers and instruments set up all over the stage so the band can just pick one up and start. There is exposed lighting and an actual catwalk into the audience.
There are a couple of sound issues. It’s very loud – like Rock and Roll should be – but at times it drowns out the voices, though sitting further back might remedy that. On this occasion, the show was halted after half an hour due to technical issues, which lasted about 15 minutes. Though it when it resumed, it was seamless – very professional.
Some of the support actors’ American accents are a bit off. And with the ensemble playing several roles, sometimes it is a little confusing who is who, although the whole cast is incredibly talented.
With the audience on their feet well before the closing number, this piece of theatre is a success from start to finish. The sound issues may well have been a one-performance off and may not happen again, so don’t let that put you off. Kinks fan or newbie to their music, this is an unmissable show that offers a fantastic night out.
Runs until 14 January 2017 | Image: Kevin Cummins