Review: Sunny Afternoon by Corrine Cox

With speckled references to the hits throughout the storytelling, this clever writing creates an enjoyably impatient anticipation for the big numbers but also the impression that we are watching the creative genius unfold.

5 Stars5 / 5

As we’re teased with references to the iconic You Really Got Me in the opening sequence there’s already a palpable sense of anticipation pulsing around the auditorium of the Wales Millennium Centre as the cast of Sunny Afternoon prepare to take us on a 2½ hour musical journey through The Kinks rise to stardom. From the early days in North London; their debut on Top of the Pops; the infamous American tour; through to their triumphant comeback, Joe Penhall ingeniously weaves the hit songs from the 60s into the storytelling of one of the most influential bands of the era.

Our story begins in Muswell Hill, with performances by Ryan O’Donnell & Mark Newnham perfect characterisations of the often tense professional relationship between the rebellious Davies brothers, as they navigate the initial tensions to discovering the bands distinctive sound, the start of a journey which would shape a unique musical identity that would inspire generations. Throughout the evening O’Donnell, Newnham (a highlight performance), Gallo, Rhys and the supporting ensemble, blend effortlessly to recreate the iconic sound of the band, in what is a moving portrayal of both the professional and the personal lives of the band and their adjustment to the pressures of stardom. With references to the hits speckled throughout the storytelling, this clever writing creates an enjoyably impatient anticipation for the big numbers but also the impression that we are watching the creative genius unfold.

Throughout the exploration of the soaring highs and the frustrating lows the band encounter, we join the cast in a celebration of how four working class musicians from North London changed the music scene for generations to come. Dead end street, weaved masterfully into Penhall’s narrative, particularly highlighting how the bands upbringing proved an ongoing source of inspiration for Ray’s writing with the majority of the works involving similar elements of social commentary, which inevitably played a large part in their then and ongoing appeal.

The staging enables the cast to create a certain intimacy during acoustic interludes including This Time Tomorrow and Thank you for the Days, contrasted with the gig feel of the iconic All Day and All of the Night & roof raising end sequence, and quirks of the choreography and use of props lend themselves especially well to the playfulness of numbers such as Dedicated Follower of Fashion.

The universal appeal of Sunny Afternoon makes it a must-see irrespective of whether you know the band or the songs. If you know The Kinks you’ll love it, if you don’t know the Kinks you’ll love it. A feel good musical and a moving portrayal to one of the defining bands of the 60s who will continue to inspire generations to come.

Ray Davies – Ryan O’Donnell
Dave Davies – Mark Newnham
Mick Avory – Andrew Gallo
Pete Quaife – Garmon Rhys
Music & Lyrics – Ray Davies
Book – Joe Penhall
Original Story – Ray Davies
Director – Edward Hall
Designer – Miriam Buether
Choreographer – Adam Cooper
Lighting – Rick Fisher
Sound – Matt Mckenzie
Musical Supervisor – Elliot Ware

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