Writer: Joe Penhall
Director: Edward Hall
Reviewer: Sharon MacDonald-Armitage
Storming into Southampton’s Mayflower theatre with a rocking punch is award-winning musical Sunny Afternoon. Telling the story of brothers Ray and Dave Davies and their fellow Kinks bandmates Pete Quaife and Mick Avory, Sunny Afternoon transports the audience back to the 60s and depicts the struggle of four working class lads from Muswell Hill and their problematic and tempestuous rise to fame.
Using a formula well tested in many juke box musicals, out not only due to its at times unbelievable storyline but because of its recognisable and well-known back catalogue of songs. From classic hit numbers Lola, Waterloo Sunset, You Really Got Me and Sunny Afternoon to songs not immediately associated with The Kinks, there is much to keep not only the avid Kinks fan happy, but also those just out for a fun evening.
With a set surrounded by amplifiers and speakers reflecting the loud raw amplified innovative sound of The Kinks’ music there is minimal set change, the focus being more on the four main leads of the band: Ray Davies (Ryan O’Donnell), Dave “the rave” Davies (Mark Newnham), Mick Avory (Andrew Gallo), Pete Quaife (Garmon Rhys). It is O’Donnell as the troubled frontman Ray Davies, who drives the show and whose presence is felt throughout; as it should be as after all, it is his story.
Reflecting the youthful enthusiasm and naivety in Act 1 through to the disillusion with fame in Act 2, O’Donnell sings and plays his heart out and as such gives a believable and genuine performance. Newnham, as Dave Davies does at times cross the fine line between being a quirky, manic, stereotypical rock star to presenting the audience with a Harry Enfield petulant teenager, which he is at the start of the show, but it slightly grates and takes away the authenticity of the character as the show progresses. However, like O’Donnell and Newnham, Gallo and Rhys play a variety of instruments on stage, which works well as the narrative switches between live concert performances and personal moments within Ray Davies’ life.
This is a story about struggle, success, heartbreak and tension which reflect the highs and lows of Ray Davies life, but in order to get to the highs of Act 2 there are a number of lows in Act 1, the main being that there is a feeling it is just slightly too long and slightly too slow. However, this show has come a long way in the past few years, from its inception at the Hampstead Theatre, London, through to its Olivier-winning West End run and now a nationwide tour so it is clearly doing something right. This is evident at the end of the show with the obligatory requirement for the audience to be on their feet during the final “concert” encore.
Runs until 10 December 2016 then continuing to tour | Image: Kevin Cummings