Previously showing at the Hampstead Theatre in 2014 and now enjoying a spotlight in the West End, Sunny Afternoon, the Kinks’ biographical musical, continues to build momentum with theatregoers
The show’s a crowd pleaser – sporting great on-stage musical talent from its actors who all play instruments throughout. This means there is only a need for two offstage musicians to put the performance together, which makes the show truly feel like a concert.
The set is also designed in such a way that it creates a concert vibe. Its walls are made from 60s style speakers and the stage consists of a catwalk that extends into the audience.
At points, members of the cast became audience members themselves, getting everybody on their feet and immersed in the energy of the youthful, swinging 60s vibe that the show creates. The plot follows Ray Davies, Dave Davies and their fellow bandmates, from the birth of The Kinks in 1963 to the 1966 World Cup victory and beyond. They begin by unleashing their revolutionary rock ‘n’ roll sound on the establishment, who quickly realises there’s money to be made from these kids. In contradiction of their socialist message, the band finds themselves progressing to become the new establishment, which creates moral and tangible pressures. The Kinks also have to endure exploitative contracts and union fallouts, which the show suggests, conspire to become the reason the band never quite reached the fever pitch that their contemporaries – the Rolling Stones and the Beatles – did.
The chemistry between each member of the band is energetic and suitably unstable, yet when they perform together they are electrifying. John Dagleish’s performance as the shy and down-to-earth Ray Davies holds the show together well. He carries a suitable air of melancholy and the sense of cheeky wisdom required to play Ray.
Alternatively, whenever George Maguire steps on stage he immediately lifts the atmosphere with his portrayal of Ray’s brother, ‘Dave the Rave.’ He charismatically parades across the stage in an array of outfits including a pink dress, furs and a fashionable leather jacket, exuding the confident nature of a rock ‘n’ roll celebrity.
Also worth a mention is Lillie Flynn, who does an excellent job portraying Ray’s wife, who desperately tries to hold onto him with undying devotion. The disputes and clashes of character within the band is the main driving force of the plot, which touches on some social issues and the philosophy of a time that many may regard as the ‘golden’ period. However, the quality of the plot does appear to be upstaged by the music. There are several moments when you really feel for the characters, but Sunny Afternoon is perhaps more tailored to people interested in the music itself.
A group with such expectations is sure to have a fantastic time. Sunny Afternoon finishes on a real feel good note, celebrating England’s World Cup victory as red, white and blue confetti falls from the rafters, over the stage and its audience. Not only did I leave the theatre with a sense of 60s optimism, but also felt motivated to download an album by The Kinks in preparation for summer 2015.
Due to public demand, Sunny Afternoon has extended its booking period to October 2015. Sunny Afternoon is performed at the Harold Pinter Theatre and recently celebrated its 100th performance.
Discounted rates are available for groups, with parties of 6+ receiving £20 off tickets for Monday to Thursday performances. Groups of 10+ can receive £30 off Monday to Wednesday performances valid until May 31, 2015. For more information visit www.sunnyafternoonthemusical.com