A show based on the songs of The Kinks may not seem like an obvious first choice for new musical fodder, but Sunny Afternoon is a glorious thing to behold. Undoubtedly bolstered by the band’s well documented love affair with the capital, the show is both a love letter to London as much as it as sterling tribute to an iconic band.
But then, it’s so much more than that too. It’s hard to know where to start with Sunny Afternoon when showering it with praise: the set looks incredible, built from towering pillars of speakers and amps, the choreography is tremendously executed, the script simply zings, and the cast is shining. John Dagleish practically embodies frontman Ray Davies, while there’s stunning support from George Maguire as Dave and Lillie Flynn as his long-suffering wife, Rasa, to name but two.
The stunning soundtrack, made up of hits such as You Really Got Me, Dedicated Follower of Fashion and Lola, manages to avoid feeling like either a full-on jukebox musical or a glorified tribute concert by cleverly weaving these songs into its narrative. And what a narrative it is; touching on topics as diverse as sibling rivalry, the price of fame, and social and political change in the ’60s, the story is powerful and emotive, as well as genuinely funny. The show takes great pleasure, for instance, in having only been written in the last few years but being set in the 1960s – with plenty of gags at the expense of the likes of The Beatles, The Who and The Rolling Stones guaranteed to raise a smile.
In the end, Sunny Afternoon will have you both laughing and crying (sometimes at the same time); it grabs you from the very start and doesn’t let go. Special mention has to go to Ned Derrington as bassist Pete Quaife, whose everyman attitude throughout is both hilarious and surprisingly touching by the final act. Music-wise, aside from the big-hitters, there’s the sumptuous montage of Too Much On My Mind/Tired of Waiting for You between Ray and Rasa, plus Till The End of the Day, which gets the full Rock-God-anthem treatment here. The acapella version of Days is both the most unexpected and the most moving element.
Fully deserving of its recent accolades (four Oliviers this year) and certain to scoop many more, Sunny Afternoon is a wonderful piece of theatre. The Harold Pinter was shaking by the end, with everyone on their feet for what is surely one of London’s most rousing finales. Go and see this show.