Book: Joe Penhall
Music/Lyrics: Ray Davies
Director: Edward Hall
Reviewer: John Roberts
The Kinks are regarded as one of the biggest names in British popular music history. It’s not hard to see why when you look over their massive cavern of hits including; You Really Got Me, All Day and All of the Night, Waterloo Sunset, Dedicated Follower To Fashion, Lola, and the titular Sunny Afternoon – so it should be no surprise to anyone who has bought a ticket for this biographical jukebox musical not to be won over by the music which, it must be said, is performed with real passion and commitment from the cast.
Having bowled over critics when the show took residency at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End, the show has gained a cult following. The energy and vibrancy of the production was hailed as its biggest success, no doubt due to the intimate nature of its “home” and its cabaret-esque styled staging. However, throw that concept into the largest two-tiered theatre in the UK and things somehow start to feel very out of place.
The cast seems out of sorts upon the massive stage and seemingly lack any drive and energy while delivering Joe Penhall’s pedestrian script (which, no thanks to the poor sound balance, is almost inaudible for most of the evening). Even the jokes based on Liverpool don’t seem to land as well as they ought to. Edward Hall has been known to be one of the most creative directors in the business, his work with all male Shakespearian troupe Propeller providing some of the most enjoyable and inventive staging this reviewer has seen, so it is a real shame to see staging that is so lacklustre and unimaginative, especially when paired alongside Adam Cooper’s perfunctory choreography. Miriam Buether’s set design may have looked first-rate and provided the wow factor in a small sized theatre and it does look good in Act 1 with its 100s of speaker fronts, but come to Act 2 and it all feels a little cheap.
Thankfully the show’s saving grace is the music, which performed by Rayn O’Donnell (Ray Davies), Garmon Rhys (Pete Quaife), Mark Newnham (Dave Davies) and Andrew Gallo hit all the right notes and imbibes the show with the punch that is so lacking in Penhall’s dialogue. Penhall straddles a difficult balance in getting the biographical nature of the band’s history into such a short amount of time and sadly it is to the detriment to the emotional connection of the characters.
If you are a dedicated follower of The Kinks then Sunny Afternoon is going to be right up your street, but if you are looking for something a little more in-depth and creative then you might want to give this a miss.
Runs until 11 February 2017 | Image: Kevin Cummins