Sunny Afternoon

  • Theatre
  • West End
1 Love It
1/9
© Kevin Cummins

George Maguire, Ned Derrington, Dominic Tighe, Tam Williams and Adam Sopp

2/9
© Kevin Cummins

Adam Sopp, Ned Derrington, John Dagleish, Lillie Flynn and George Maguire

3/9
© Kevin Cummins

Ashley Campbell

4/9
© Kevin Cummins

Carly Anderson and John Dagleish

5/9
© Kevin Cummins

Carly Anderson, George Maguire and Emily Goodenough

6/9
© Kevin Cummins

John Dagleish and Ben Caplan

7/9
© Kevin Cummins

John Dagleish and George Maguire

8/9
© Kevin Cummins

John Dagleish and George Maguire

9/9
© Kevin Cummins

John Dagleish and Lillie Flynn

Harold Pinter Theatre, Trafalgar Square Until Saturday April 16 2016
Buy tickets

The Kinks were a bunch of delightfully scrappy north London outsiders, and at a push you might say the same about this musical based on their songs, which transfers to the Harold Pinter from the wilds of, er, Hampstead Theatre.

‘Sunny Afternoon’ doesn’t feel like a big West End show, but that’s a compliment to Ed Hall’s spunky production and its air of scrubbed-up anarchy. Its cast may only be modest in size, but by the end they all feel like old friends, wandering freely into the audience in a theatre made more intimate via cabaret seating and a runway projecting deep into the stalls. It sidesteps several musical clichés: none of the leads dance, and indeed the four actors playing the band could probably have everybody else currently on London’s stages in a fight. Only the most faint-hearted of souls will find anything to offend them – I don’t think there’s even any swearing – but the frequent cacophony of live instruments mark this as a breed apart.

Written in collaboration with Ray Davies, Joe Penhall’s biographical book focuses on the life of the chief Kink. It teeters towards hagiography, but John Dagleish puts in the show’s most compelling performance as Ray. A troubled, sensitive soul who finds himself both massively famous and married with a child by the age of 20, he has an almighty freakout while brother and guitarist Dave (George Maguire) enjoys it all rather too much.

It is great fun. Miriam Buether’s Swinging Sixities designs are wonderful and the hit-packed last 20 minutes utterly joyous: it’s great that the bulk of the songs are blasted out in the bone-rattling style of a gig rather than being prettified for the theatre.

Nonetheless, for all its stylish insouciance, I felt ‘Sunny Afternoon’ fell short on ambition. The Kinks’ story was a grand soap opera that stretched on for 30 years and would have been ripe for a ‘Jersey Boys’-style epic. Instead Penhall’s book is a simplistic, sentimental summary of their first two years that ends on a rather contrived high. There are still genuflections to musical theatre convention, with some of Davies’s best tunes handed to minor characters to belt out in jokey song-and-dance routines. And it’s slightly bloated – thirty-odd tunes feels a bit much.

‘Sunny Afternoon’ is a superior jukebox musical that deserves to be a hit. But behind its rough ’n’ ready façade, there’s a sense of calculation that The Kinks themselves never demonstrated.

Venue name: Harold Pinter Theatre
Contact:
Address: 6 Panton Street
London
SW1Y 4DN
Transport: Piccadilly Circus tube
Price: £15-£49.50
Event website: http://www.sunnyafternoonthemusical.com

Average User Rating

4.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:7
  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|11
1 person listening
carobroo

We all loved it. An extremely good evening out and just what a night out at the theatre should be.

Carly-Ann Clements

It's my favourite West End show at the moment. It's like being at a live gig and a musical all at the same time. John Dagleish and George Maguire knocked it out of the park and everyone else quite happily keep up with them too.


I've seen it twice already and I can't wait to see it a third.

bowertron
Staff Writer

Such a great night out - a great british muscial that captures what makes London great. Strong performances recognisable tunes. Well worth getting a table in the stalls if you can

Argy E

"title"


A fun performance but fairly superficial.. The production and the acting was great!

The Man on the Street
Tastemaker

Its a game of two halves. To be honest the first act did not really work for me. Standard band storyline and some real bullshit from one one of the managers about his family history. However , what happens in the second act is remarkable . The show really starts to motor. By the time they hit Lola me and the whole damn audience was on its feet. OK, Its not Les Mis but it is the perfect antidote. I agree with with this review. Its a 3 star show, but its a 5 star night out. Don't fuck about - go !

Ivan R

Went with my wife last night as we had a spare night left in london. In our 60's we always liked the kinks music. Reviews we read were varied but I must say we thoroughly enjoyed the whole show. Pretty raw in places but the whole small theatre ambience lent something special that would not be there in a large theatre. Bit like being in a lounge room. Cast were pretty amazing shopping between roles and instruments. Face pace all the way and some amazing talent on show. Never going to be a classic but great entertainment.

John G

I'll preface my review by saying that I am a Dave Davies rather than a Ray Davies fan, so this necessarily colours what I felt when I saw the play.

If you like your version of the Kinks' story clichéd, cartoonish and told through the eyes of one man (Ray), with an 'overcoming the odds' happy ending at Madison Square Garden under the stewardship of Allan Klein, then this is for you. Unfortunately, it means that we get the poor, tortured Ray version that we've read about before, with him being let down by grasping management, the US Teamsters, and his fellow bandmates, and having to cope with enormous personal and professional pressure. He is the only three-dimensional character in the play, with Pete Quaife coming across as a terrified wimp (although he is given credit for the bass intro to 'Sunny Afternoon'), and Dave Davies coming across as an out-of-control, cross-dressing party animal (which may have been true in the 60's!). I could also have done without the decorative 60's dolly birds prancing round the auditorium (another cliché).

However, what is undeniable is the power of the songs and the music, and, when the four Kinks are playing together, and playing loud, they sound very convincing. The ability of the supporting cast to pick up instruments at the drop of a hat and support them is also very impressive. This lifts it above most of the other 'jukebox musicals' that have appeared over the last few years.

I do, nevertheless, remain mystified as to the omission of 'Death of a Clown' from the play, which Ray co-wrote with Dave after all. We know that he never liked Dave playing it onstage, but it would have been the perfect song to slot in when Dave was saying that he was tired of being 'Dave the Rave'. I would also have like to have seen how 'The Village Green Preservation Society'  and 'Arthur' came about - and I think that going out with 'Arthur' would have been preferable to 'Lola' at Madison Square Garden, as the Kinks were essentially about Englishness, not becoming a triumphant international rock act (although I know they managed that eventually).

Chris Gore

I don't usually do musicals and nor do the Hamsptead Theatre.  But this was an exception which certainly rates as Five Star entertainment.  This is due not only to Ray Davies' well known and loved music but also to the band and company who are excellent throughout marvelously energetic and clearly enjoying themselves.  Even the Hampstead matinee regulars get up and dance.  Hindsight provides us with enough witty lines and the songs are well worked in, teasingly developed and sometimes tender.  The theatre may be small which makes the staging difficult but the audience gain from this due to the proximity to the action even at the back of the stalls.  The production makes good use of the space with the cast often making their entrances through the stalls and even seen in the circle in the 70s encore.  This must transfer as it deserves to run and run after selling out at the Hampstead.  

Frank L

The show is absolutely for lack of the better over used word " Brilliant ". The cast captures not only the essence of the 60's and KinKs big part in that era and beyond too. Ray Davies songs and The Kinks as a band were and still are far more important than many people give them credit for and their music will be studied & played long in to the future when many others will be pushed to the side. He wrote and they performed music with much further depth & character than beyond the perfect 3 minute pop song which they were also masters of as well. This is the kind of musical that will have a West End or Broadway audience of not only those who lived through this era but those who missed it or were too young to have been around for it up on their feet, singing and dancing and leaving the theatre with a smile & an emotional tie to the band and their music they may not have ever knew they had. This is great musical theatre, and is London and the UK's answer to Jersey Boys only better and that already is on West End & Broadway. Need I say more? If there is any justice this musical too will see the lights and bigger stage in the future -  God save Ray Davies, God save the KinKs, God save the Village Green.

robert d

Sit back and slip back to the 60's and enjoy a fast-paced and bumpy ride through agents, publishers, family and punch ups to get a feel on Ray Davies' selfie snapshot of the Kinks rise and stumble. The songs say some of it but the cast are energetically convincing and committed and who cares how much it reflects what really happened. If you were there at the time you'll love it and if you weren't then just enjoy tune after tune until Lola gets you on your feet at the end. Great musical theatre - who needs more ?