I’m not normally a huge fan of musicals. However, I am a huge fan of The Kinks so when the opportunity to see Sunny Afternoon came up I was never going to say no.
With most musicals I generally find the mix of dialogue and song unconvincing. The one musical I have properly enjoyed prior to this was Buddy, telling the story of the rise and fatal crash of Buddy Holly & The Crickets. This at least made sure that the only musical parts of the dramatisation were when the characters were realistically engaged in rehearsing, recording or performing.
With his love of love of music hall and vaudeville, however, this was never going to be an option for Ray Davies and it’s very much a musical in the fullest sense of the word – with choreographed dance routines, whole-cast sing-alongs, chunks of dialogue delivered in song and the full works. Normally, the sort of thing that would make me run a mile. But, as well as good, loud, convincing performances of many Kinks songs there was much I found to like in this production. It ostensibly tells the story of Ray Davies’ battle between artistic integrity on the one hand, and the demands of the 60s-era music business on the other. But the fiery relationship between Ray and brother Dave is also examined. (Why do nearly all brothers in bands have such fiery relationships?). Although there is a temptation for the Dave character to come across as a two-dimensional wanna-be-rockstar-cum-actual-rockstar he is brilliantly played by Mark Newnham and some of the complexities of the character and his relationship with his brother are convincingly explored.
Some of the more overly-theatrical elements of the show irked slightly but there were some really powerful scenes, too. My favourite bit is towards the end when the band are in the studio laying down the parts to Waterloo Sunset. It’s genuinely moving seeing the characters lay down hostilities and come together in this scene, emotionally as well as artistically. Overall, even for a hardened sceptic on this whole theatrical genre, I found Sunny Afternoon hugely enjoyable.
Dave Davies (with Ray!) Islington 2015