Writer: Stephen Greenhorn
Director(s): Elizabeth Newman & Ben Occhipinti
Scotland’s very own Jukebox musical takes the nation’s beloved Leith boys The Proclaimers, and seeds music to the book of Stephen Greenhorn to produce a musical with bite, with banter, and a flair of Scots humour. It’s a people’s musical – with a heavier brow and curled fist, the more adventurous and tongue-in-cheek brother of the West End Jukebox musicals.
Freedom has a cost, and often we sell our politics, our duty and even our hearts to make the choices we want. Returning to the city of Edinburgh (more specifically Leith), Ally and Davy finally receive leave from the Armed Forces to make their way home. But while the steps may retain their smell and the Balmoral clock stands tall – the city isn’t the same. And neither are their lives.
At the same time, the celebration of their return gives way to additional revelations, strife, and difficulties the remainder of the cast are battling. And this is the aspects of Greenhorn’s story which Elizabeth Newman and Ben Occhipinti latch themselves to – the emotional structure of the story.
Love has a variety of forms. None of them are easy. Platonic, and familial love, while as powerful, will never share the dynamics of romantic love, and indeed, especially for Sunshine on Leith, Newman and Occhipinti capture these varying aspects, but also the love for community. Newman and Occhipinti undertake the task of channelling the character through the words and lyrics of The Proclaimers, achieving a production where the humanity behind the character sits at the forefront – as equal footing as Richard Reeday’s musical direction.
Flittering from the shadows to the centre-stage, the ensemble cast funnel a tremendous energy. Achieving an acoustical barrage that, while occasionally drowning a key cast member or two, cannot be faulted for delivering the hits to the King’s Theatre – whether it be the guitar riffs, or Cello control of Anna Fordham, or the more performance interactive aspects of Kit Orton and Richard Colvin. The Ensemble may often return to the ramshackle of Adrian Rees set design, which places placard dimensional representations of the city up on eye, judging and watching our characters, but the ensemble cast are what make this production – a reinforcer of community.
Where squaddies Keith Jack’s (Ally) voice has an earthier, more nuanced tone, Connor Going’s (Davy) finds an incredible footing with the King’s Theatre acoustics – belting out Throw The “R” Away and I’m On My Way. Going’s has a sensational additional connection with the ensemble, as well as love interest Yvonne, played by Rhianne Drummond who is strikes out, carrying the belter numbers and vocals, is Rhiane Drummond’s emotive and controlled Yvonne, with a clarity to their voice which harmonises, rather than competes, an issue other cast members struggle.
Blythe Jandoo’s more ambitious Liz, attempting to balance the responsibilities of work, family stresses and the grievances of her boyfriend, captures an aspect of relatable pressure. As too does stressed Mother Jean, Alyson Orr One, who both channel the performance elements of their vocals, leading to a more emotionally balanced, and less overwrought conclusion to Act II with Hate My Love, a number usually bloated with heavy instrumentals and false moxie – praise to David Shrubsole’s musical arrangements for dialling back.
So there it is. While the King’s Theatre will remain open until June 18th for the run of Sunshine on Leith, but for us, it is likely the last time we’ll set foot in the building before the redevelopment. The decision for this co-production created by Pitlochry and Capital to close the building is a concise, and meritorious one, a tale of rejuvenation, of venture, and of freedom. Sunshine on Leith has come home, and the laughs, cheers and tears of an appreciative audience are the ideal swansong for the Theatre. So all that’s left is to say thank you to the Old Lady of Leven Street, and that we’ll see her on the other side.
Runs until 18 June 2022 | Image: Fraser Band