6-10 December 2016
Reviewed by Angela Paull
Last night we were lucky enough to see Sunny Afternoon at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton. The theatre is in the city centre with ample parking nearby (I recommend Gloucester Place as it has a flat rate of £2 between 6pm and midnight). The Mayflower has a bright welcoming foyer, a restaurant, bars and snack/drinks kiosk – everything you could possibly need in fact!
“Sunny Afternoon” is based upon the music of The Kinks but this is not one of those musicals where a story is created around the songs, it is essentially a biographical account set in the mid 60’s. We see the rise of the band from early beginnings, playing riffs in their bedroom, to eventually cracking the lucrative American market but there are plenty of ups and downs along the way.
Ryan O’Donnell makes an excellent Ray Davies, a natural songwriter who takes inspiration from everything around him and whose passion is the music rather than the fame or money that may come with it. His younger brother Dave, played with just the right amount of anarchy by Mark Newnham, is the teen whose head is turned by the girls, booze, drugs and rock n roll lifestyle. Together with their childhood friends Mick and Pete they sign a contract which appears to give their multi layered management the biggest chunk of their earnings.
We see early success in the UK then tempered by falling foul of the unions when they first attempt to crack the American market. Meanwhile their personal lives are full of self-doubt, loneliness, and regrets. A real example of being careful what you wish for, there is a beautifully melancholic section where Ray is on the phone to his wife Rasa, at home struggling with a baby by herself. Lisa Wright, as Rasa, has a stunning and haunting quality to her voice that really tugs at the emotions.
The most impressive part of this production though is the overall musical talent of everyone involved. All seemed to be playing their own instruments (and in many cases multiple instruments) which gave a real authenticity to the whole thing.
In a joyous finale that sees them accepted back in the US, playing Madison Square Gardens, the audience is encouraged to get on their feet and join in and it really had the feel of a genuine gig. Naturally the obvious sing-a-long classics “Waterloo Sunset” and “Lola” are the show’s closing numbers but there are a host of other Kinks classics along the way – including “Sunny Afternoon”, “All Day and All of the Night” and “Dedicated Follower of Fashion”. A stand out moment for me was a fabulous acapella version of “Days” which also showcased the impressive vocals of their “Tory Toff” managers Grenville and Robert, played with just the right amount of upper class snobbery by Tomm Coles and Joseph Richardson.
You definitely don’t need to be a dedicated follower of The Kinks to thoroughly enjoy this production, they have a large enough body of music that everyone will recognise the classics at the very least.
In summary “Sunny Afternoon” – You Really Got Me!
Tickets cost from £24.50 to £44.50 (booking fees may apply).
Sunny Afternoon is at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton until 10 December 2016. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 02380 711811.
Mayflower Theatre, Commercial Road, Southampton, SO15 1GE | 02380 711811