Sunny Afternoon: a musical based on The Kinks

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Sunny Afternoon narrates the journey of London rock band, “The Kinks” through the swinging 60’s as they fight to claim their name as one of the big British rock bands of the time, joining The Beatles, The Who and The Rolling Stones.

Written by playwright, Joe Penhall, the musical illustrates the band’s roller-coaster story using passionate acting, raunchy humour and of course the brilliant music and lyrics of the band’s singer-song writer, Ray Davies.

On Tuesday (29 Nov) the Regent Theatre was packed with an audience who had lived through that era. They were expecting performances of the band’s well known hits, but were more intrigued by the story behind them.

Brothers Ray and Dave Davies, joined by Pete Quaife and Mick Avory made the quartet that rose to stardom. The story also tells how they then came crashing down after essentially being deported from the States following a fall out with the Musicians Trade Union. The constant squabbling, interference from greedy managers and consumption of hard drugs and alcohol meant that coherence in the band was non-existent, ultimately leading to their demise at a time when they could have become commercial rivals to The Beatles.

Ryan O’Donell does well in his portrayal of Ray and he has good chemistry with his on-stage colleagues. He effortlessly performs songs such as “Lola” and “Sunny Afternoon” in a way that Davies himself would be proud of.

For me the stand out performance is by Mark Newnham who plays Dave, the band’s answer to Keith Moon in terms of Rock ‘n’ Roll behaviour. He is rambunctious throughout with his chandelier swinging, cross-dressing and constant cursing; all while providing the raw and grainy guitar sound that’s become synonymous with the Kinks.

Overall, the vintage looking cast work extremely well together, obviously talented they are able weave in and out of song with style.

Director, Edward Hall perfectly captures both the elation and misery experienced by the band and relates it brilliantly to the feeling in England around that time. As people across the country celebrate the success of winning the World Cup, Ray lies in his bed after returning from America, questioning what there is to be happy about when many people can’t afford to live.

Although the cast are seen off with a standing ovation after a boisterous performance of “You Really Got Me” the insight into the band’s life leaves undertones of a melancholic feel. The Kinks may not have been manageable, and certainly didn’t reach the height of the success as The Beatles, but were always real and typically English. That in its self is to be commended.

Sunny Afternoon will not only brighten up your day, it will put a spring in your step alongside an overwhelming feeling of love for British music. It’s a must see for any music fan, especially fans of “The Kinks”.

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