Sunny Afternoon, a musical based upon the music and life of The Kinks, is quintessentially British and endlessly enjoyable. Charting the rise to fame of four boys who grew up in working class families in Muswell Heath, the musical comically explores the various jaunts of a group of friends as they face managers, promoters, lovers, and breaking America.
Written by Ray Davies himself, the production is held together by the infamous conflicts between himself and his brother as they navigate this new world of touring and fame. Ryan O’Donnell does a great job playing The Kinks frontman Ray Davies, depicting a passion and instinctive talent for song-writing alongside his love for his wife Rasa (Lisa Wright).
A series of emotional duets between Ray Davies and Rasa punctuate the fast-paced action, propelling the plot forward with a new momentum and ferocity as we find ourselves rooting anew for the happiness and success of the band.
“Mark Newnham perfectly depicts the wild eccentricity of a young rockstar in the 1960s”
Dave Davies (Mark Newnham), otherwise known as Dave the Rave, truly steals the show. With a youthful carelessness that appears to spiral out of control during the course of the production, Mark Newnham perfectly depicts the wild eccentricity of a young rockstar in the 1960s, who left school at 16 to make it big with his brother.
Appearing in an array of flamboyant outfits, swinging from chandeliers, and possessing a general anti-establishment disposition that provides various (humorous) tensions throughout, Dave Davies is a highlight.
“Sunny Afternoon stages the most memorable moments of The Kinks’ career”
Coupled with band-members Pete Quaife (Garmon Rhys) and Mick Avory (Andrew Gallo), Sunny Afternoon stages the most memorable moments of The Kinks’ career – from Mick Avory knocking Dave Davies out live on stage in Cardiff, to their ban in America that Dave Davies himself stated ‘took away the best years in The Kinks’ career’.
A not-so-subtle parodying of America is present throughout, and is suitably comical, as well as assisting The Kinks’ identity as a Socialist English band writing songs for the common man. This sense of a 1960’s nostalgia runs throughout the musical, with accurate and quirky period costumes and dances, the celebration of England winning the world cup, and Ray Davies’ homesickness for his country. But it all concludes on a high.
“The audience were up on their feet dancing as the theatre transformed into a Kinks concert”
The final twenty minutes of the show see a number of outstanding musical performances from the cast, with many of the actors doubling as their own musicians. Playing classics such as ‘Sunny Afternoon’, ‘You Really Got Me’ and ‘Lola’, the audience were up on their feet dancing as the theatre transformed into a Kinks concert.
Cast members, decked in vibrant 1960s fashions, danced and clapped from the audience before a triumphant ‘Waterloo Sunset’ finale that possessed a real feel-good factor.
“I can delight in saying that Sunny Afternoon does not disappoint”
As a celebration and memoir to one of the most influential British rock bands of all time (a tall order), I can delight in saying that Sunny Afternoon does not disappoint.
As Ray Davies ironically asks during the course of the production, ‘Yeah, but will they be playing it in 30 year’s time?’, I can’t help but think that Sunny Afternoon has the potential to inspire a whole new generation of The Kinks fans. A must-see.
9/10 – Unmissable, almost perfect.
Image credit: Kevin Cummins, courtesy of Theatre Royal.
‘Sunny Afternoon’ is running at the Theatre Royal until Saturday 28th January. For more information and where to find tickets see here.