Composer: Ray Davies
Writer: Joe Penhall
Director: Edward Hall
Reviewer: Tom Finch
After a sell out run at the Hampstead, Sunny Afternoon, a musical charting the rise and fall and rise again of 60s band The Kinks has opened in the West End. The songs from the back catalogue of the 60s power group are used to tell the story of how a young group of “working class socialists” found fame and fortune and the price they paid for it.
The show bypasses the early years of the band and within five minutes they have been signed to their first label. A young Ray Davies is portrayed as some sort of genius and is played with great aplomb by John Dagliesh. Dagliesh, who barely leaves the stage for the duration has to run the gamut of emotions while lending his considerable vocals to just about every number. In fact all of the cast approach the show with real gusto, giving it their all and working hard to give the audience a great night out.
It’s such a shame that it’s so hard to like any of the characters. Ray Davies and indeed the rest of the band spend pretty much the entire show moaning about how hard it is to be in a band, something that the average guy on the street might not have much sympathy with. The trouble is we’re never given a chance to see them enjoy it and then witness everything turn sour, from page one they’re moaning and it stays like that until the curtain call. It’s an interesting juxtaposition mixing upbeat songs with a storyline which is so downbeat and frankly indulgent.
Joe Penhall’s book does have some clever one liners but as the characters seem determined to pick fault in absolutely everything it’s difficult to engage with on a serious level. It means that Sunny Afternoon just feels like yet another jukebox musical attempting to capitalise on the popularity of a band from yesteryear.
And no doubt it will be very popular. Fans of the The Kinks will adore this show. The actor musician cast are near perfect, wonderfully embodying the sound of the 60s, however, it was telling though that the audience on the night this reviewer saw the show did not seem to fully engage until the finale when everyone was essentially ordered to get to their feet and start having a good time. If only that sense of fun had permeated throughout the whole evening.
Sunny Afternoon is great if you’re a Kinks fans otherwise you might be better off having a cosy night in.
Booking until23rd May| Photo:Dominic Clemence