Writer: Joe Penhall
Music: Ray Davies
Director: Edward Hall
Reviewer: Jacqui Onions
Do not dismiss this as another jukebox musical.
Sunny Afternoon uses the music of The Kinks to tell the band’s story from the perspective of singer/song writer Ray Davies (Ryan O’Donnell). The Kinks have an interesting story to tell, from on stage fights to being banned from touring in the US, and this abridged look at their history tells it from within the heart of the group and in such a way that is enjoyable whether you’re a fan or have never heard of The Kinks.
Rarely will you witness such a multitalented cast before you on stage. Every cast member is as strong an actor as they are singer as they are musician. Some double up on roles, making the cast feel much bigger than it actually is, and play with ease a variety of instruments from the expected guitars and percussion to trombones. It is a real joy to see and hear the music being played live on stage by the cast and this is one of this show’s strongest elements. The only downside is occasionally the balance of sound is off, meaning that the distinctive lyrics of Ray Davies are sometimes lost; a real shame since the songs have been cleverly selected to fit seamlessly with the story telling. The vocals from the cast are stunning, both individually as soloists or as an ensemble. They are equally at home blasting out raw classics or delivering a spine-tingling a capella version of Days.
The set, designed by Miriam Buether, provides a simple but interesting backdrop made up of speakers for most of the show, adding in just enough props to take the audience’s imagination to where it needs to be. Nothing more is required as Joe Penhall’s script coupled with the strong performances of the cast conjure all the imagery required. Penhall has dotted even the darkest moments with tiny gems of realistic humour, keeping the balance of light and shade throughout. The first half of the show is fast paced, gripping and does not feel its length but this unfortunately drops off in the second half, being saved by the cast who remain engaging regardless.
A show for Kinks fans, appreciators of live music or musical theatre lovers – a rare find to work so well for all three.
Runs until 21 January 2017 | Image: Kevin Cummins