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Sunny Afternoon: The Kinks sends London swinging back to the sixties groove

| Theatre | 27/10/2014

Sunny Afternoon at the Harold Pinter Theatre
Sunny Afternoon at the Harold Pinter Theatre

Sunny Afternoon rocked the Hampstead Theatre and its West End transfer has seen it raise the roof off the Harold Pinter Theatre. Sunny Afternoon is a triumph, effortlessly blending the musical hits of the Kinks, with a documentary-style production that thoroughly entertains. There are numerous shows of this ilk on the West End, from the Abba jukebox marathon that is Mamma Mia, to the gracious and elegant Jersey Boys, but now with Sunny Afternoon we have the grit, emotion, and rustic madness of the Kinks. Sunny Afternoon is a musical triumph of a bygone era of music.

The Kinks are one of Britain’s most distinctive bands to come out from the 1960s. This wasn’t because they came from squalor and became ‘musical-gods’, or the fact that they were a northern band, but because their songs had meaning and significance, that every listener could relate to. The story of the production follows front-man Ray Davies, played by John Dagleish, as he steers the Kinks through the turbulent waters that was the 1960s music scene. We begin in 1964 where the band is on the brink of being discovered, through to the various pitfalls and controversies of the next fifteen years that plagued the band. The songs performed in Sunny Afternoon are Ray’s own, and consequently the production follows his story, with the other three band member’s stories interwoven, into his central narrative.

The most emphatic element of Sunny Afternoon is the manner in which playwright Joe Penhall has been able to embed over twenty of the Kinks songs into a production, and make it work. In some cases you hear only a fragment of a song, and at other times the four-piece are rocking the stage like nothing else in the world matters. The plot touches on all the aspects of the Kinks that we’ve come to love; the bitter inner-band rivalries, the infamous tour of the States where they were consequently banned- ironically they were the only socialist band to be thrown out by the unions -to the personal, and at times touching story of Ray. With the music and lyrics in Ray Davies control, it was never in doubt that Sunny Afternoon would be a roaring success.

The Kinks rocking the Harold Pinter Theatre

The Kinks rocking the Harold Pinter Theatre

In the lead role John Dagleish charismatically captures the emotional, raw grit, passion and witty nature of Ray Davies.
Whilst, George Maguire has an uncanny resemblance to ‘Dave-the-rave’ and naturally brings out his volatile, confused and frankly at times mad personality. At one point you see Maguire swinging from the hotel chandelier leaving a path of chaos and havoc in his wake. Guitarist Ned Derrington and drummer Adam Sopp as Peter Quaife and Mick Avory respectively injected the production with a level of rock and roll ferocity that is commonly associated with the Kinks. Whilst, Lillie Flynn is genuinely moving as Ray’s wife Rasa, as she pieces together Ray’s life after the fatefully exhausting States tour. Finally, Carly Anderson (Gwen), Emily Goodenough (Peggy) and Amy Ross (Joyce) provided the show not only with a level of beauty, but also put the ‘rock’ in rock and roll.

Sunny Afternoon is a sure fire West End hit of a musical. It encompasses all that is great and rockingly brilliant about one of Britain’s best and most loved bands. The music from You Really Got Me, to Lola is immaculately performed by the cast, and by the end has the audience on its feet in a euphoric state, clapping and throwing their hands in the air like they just don’t care- reminiscent of a ‘60s style Kinks gig. Sunny Afternoon is an entertaining musical that hits all the right notes- you’d be mad to miss it.

Written by Sandip Kana | @sandipkana

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