Tag Archives: Cardiff

Review The Graduate, New Theatre, Cardiff by Jane Bissett

4 Stars4 / 5

The stage production of The Graduate  is Terry Johnson’s adaptation of the 1967 screenplay for the film of the same name. The story of the Graduate was written by Charles Webb and was his first novel written at the age of 24. Whilst it is not considered directly autobiographical, Webb’s own life is very much reflected in what he wrote and he has drawn on his own experiences to portray the, what was then, young Benjamin Braddock.

The play, set at the time it was written, gives us an insight into the world of the 1960s up and coming affluent American families and their aspirations for their offspring.

In contrast Benjamin shows us a confused young man who having graduated is unclear of his route ahead. His parents want him to follow a career path that will lead him to a secure future both financially and socially, however, Benjamin does not view this life with such optimism.

On the day of his graduation party he is propositioned by a friend of his parents, Mrs Robinson, a woman clearly bored in an unfulfilled marriage that denied her of a career and life before her life as a mother and housewife began and has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Shocked and knowing the close relationship between his parents and the Robinson’s he rejects her. Curious, bored and wanting to experience life Benjamin later begins an illicit affair with Mrs Robinson that lasts the summer. However, he quickly realises that he wants more from life and from a relationship.

Behind the scenes Mr Robinson and Benjamin’s father have been matchmaking and have arranged for him to take the Robinson’s daughter, Elaine, on a date. Disinterested Benjamin takes her to a venue that he is certain she will not like and he isn’t disappointed. Benjamin and Elaine continue to date much to the disapproval of her mother, his former lover, and when Elaine finally returns to college Benjamin announces to his parents that Elaine Robinson is the woman he will marry.

Benjamin then pursues Elaine, declares his love, only to be brought home by his father after the discovery of his affair with Mrs Robinson. As far as his parents are concerned his issues stem from his childhood and as a family they go to see a therapist.

The discovery that Elaine is to marry spurs Benjamin into action and his timely arrival at the church stops the wedding…. does it have a happy ending? Only time will tell but Benjamin and Elaine do end the play by running away together.

In Webb’s life his college romance with Eve Rudd (aka Fred) faced disapproval from her parents and despite numerous barriers put before them it went on to be a lifelong relationship that endured the tests of time and that of family life as they had two sons.

This production was set at the time it was written and had a very retro feel to the set design and the way in which the scenes changed. There were some up-to-date touches with dream sequences being projected as a film in the background which I felt visually worked well.

Jack Monaghan’s portrayal of Benjamin Braddock was very reminiscent of that given by Dustin Hoffman in the 1967 film of The Graduate. His slow American accent accentuated the personality of Benjamin and indeed allowed us to consider his age and thought processing of the situations that he found himself in. Whilst in 2017 a young man of 21 is worldly wise we have to remember that this was certainly not the case in the families of the new up and coming affluent classes of American society of the 1960s.

From the moment Catherine McCormack (Mrs Robinson) sets foot on the stage we see a bored middle aged woman who is desperately trying to cling on to her youth. Her marriage is unfulfilling and she has taken refuge in alcohol a poor excuse, even then, for her behaviour. As the story unfolds we see a woman who has lost control of her family and resents her daughter for having all the advantages she did not but who does not have the personality and enthusiasm for life that she considers young women of the liberated 1960 should have.

All the cast members enhanced the main characters and gave credible performances in their own right. It was a thought provoking and enjoyable production and never before have I seen a bed with so much stage presence and a the ability to move seamlessly between scenes.

The Graduate needs to be viewed in context to its time and place in history. From conversations around me, many of the audience had seen the film and clearly were enjoying this performance, the only thing that was missing was a Greyhound Bus.

The Graduate plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;
Tuesday 20 June – Saturday 24 June at 7.30pm
On Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday there are performances at 2.30pm.
For further details about the show or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.

http://www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk/what’s-on/the-graduate/

Review Not Dead Enough, New Theatre Cardiff by Jane Bissett

 

5 Stars5 / 5

NOT DEAD ENOUGH

Review by Third Act Critic, Jane Bissett

NOT DEAD ENOUGH – if ever there was a understatement for a title of a play this is it. This adaptation, although from a book of the same title, was a very much alive, fast moving drama which moved at a pace that ensured the audience was running alongside, wanting more but never left behind.

Peter James is an acclaimed author of crime fiction and Not Dead Enough is the third book in a series of 13 featuring DS Roy Grace. As a writer of crime fiction James has researched extensively interviewing convicted murderers and has a great insight into the criminal mind and indeed that of the seasoned detective. As an avid reader I am always in awe of the person who has the ability and imagination to adapt a book for the stage but Shaun McKenna has this cracked. He has done an outstanding job of bringing the story to life in the most believable way and I am sure with the approval of the novelist, Peter James.

All credit to an amazing Creative Team of; Director, Designer, Lighting, Sound, Production, Costume and Props who have created an environment before us of a Pathology Laboratory, a Police Station and an outside scene where it is as easily believable as the more sophisticated setting of the lab. In fact the staging of this production is the key to its ability to draw the audience into the world that James’ has created for us.

It is difficult to talk about the story line without giving away too much. If you have read James’ novels then you will be familiar with DS Grace and know him already and you will be entranced as the James’ characters are brought to life before you.

I guarantee this crime thriller will have you on the edge of your seat. Indeed at one point the gentleman sat next to me exclaimed out loud, in reaction to DS Grace searching for something, “It’s not in the box!” clearly this audience member was totally immerced in the investigation, as were we all.

All productions have their leading roles however, in Not Dead Enough all the characters were of equal importance to the storyline and you would be easily convinced that they were police officers who had worked together for years not actors playing a role.

However, that said I have to mention Gemma Stroyan who played Bella Moy and Gemma Atkins who played Sophie Harington.

Stroyan gave us a confident portrayal of a female police officer which was seamlessly believable at every level, comfortable in her skin and confident in what she was about. I would like to think that maybe James would take her character in the future and promote her to the central character in her own novel(s).

Atkins also gave a polished performance as Harington keeping us guessing about who she really was and what (if anything) she was really up to.

During the interval the auditorium was alive with chatter and theatre goers were talking not only amongst themselves and also with neighbouring audience members as to what they thought was going on, who had done what and making predictions about how it was all going to conclude.

Like DS Grace, I wanted to believe the main suspect, but how could we?! What was the evidence showing us? Who was safe? Who was next? WHAT WAS GOING ON?!

It would be wrong for me to tell you more but be aware it is not over till it’s over and even then not all the questions will have answers.

At curtain call the volume of the applause was only just that above the whistles of approval. This is an unmissable crime thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and wanting more all the way until the end.

I for one will be looking more closely at James’ novels and perhaps it will be my summer reading for 2017.

And for the record, on the way out people were still chatting and animated about what they had just seen.

NOT DEAD ENOUGH plays at Cardiff’s New Theatre from;
Tuesday 13 June – Saturday 17 June at 7.30pm
On Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday there are performances at 2.30pm.
For further details about the show or to book tickets call the Box Office on 02920878889.

 

An interview with artist Kyle Legall

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to Kyle Legall. We discussed his career to date, theatre in Wales and his new production RATS (Rose Against the System) which plays at Wales Millennium Centre 02-03 June 2017.

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2017-2018/other/rats/?view=Standard

“Hi Kyle great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?”

Kyle Legall spray paints Planet Rock, Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force. T-shirt, Higher Graphics.

“I believe you are currently preparing for a new production at The Wales Millennium Centre called RATS (Rose Against The System). I wonder if you can tell us more?”

Kyle was inaugural artist of the year with National Theatre Wales. This information below is taken from Klyle’s blog post on the development process of RATS which was posted on the NTW Community.

Kyle with a RATS cast member

“I will be presenting a glimpse of my Rats project; Rose Against The System. This is an animation I have been working on over the last year. The rats of Butetown have got wise and decide to fight back. I am planning on showing how far I have gotten by trying out a performing version for the first instalment to see if it could work as a theatre piece as well as an animation.”

“I have involved local musicians and spoken word talents such as Wibidy and Weller from Degaba. Music score by Dafydd Ieaun, from ‘Catatonia’ and ‘Super Furry Animals’ performing with his new band ‘The Earth’ introducing a new talent I discovered whilst in Edinburgh Fringe, Sam Porter. Guest Voice by Rhys Ifans.”

http://community.nationaltheatrewales.org/profiles/blogs/higher-graphics-exhibition-1?xg_source=activity

A live trailer for an earlier version of RATS (Contains strong language)
Voices by Rhys Ifans, Weller, Wibidy, Sciddy, Sam Porter. Music by Dafydd Ieaun from Super Furry Animals

“What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?”

“Many thanks for your time.”

REVIEW: RUTH RENDELL- A JUDGEMENT IN STONE, NEW THEATRE BY JAMES BRIGGS

4 Stars4 / 5

On Tuesday 4th April Cardiff’s New Theatre become a hub for wannabe sleuths as it welcomed the classic Murder Mystery play A Judgement In Stone by the prolific writer Ruth Rendell.  Ruth Rendell is very highly regarded among Murder Mystery fans all over the world and much like Agatha Christie she has continued to grow in popularity even after her passing.

Ruth Rendell is very well known for writing very differently to other crime writers due to her focus being more on the psychological reasoning and effect with a murder opposed to looking in depth at the characters and their motives. This was shown largely in the play as the motive and act of the murder chilled me to the core!

Without giving away too much about the story the play opens with a crime scene set in the divine country mansion of the Coverdale family comprising of the murders of a father, mother, son and daughter. As the story unfolds before the audience on stage as does one of Rendell’s signature writing techniques with the inclusion of the ‘Class divide’. At the time of setting and writing the play the ‘class divide’ between the working class and upper class was at it’s biggest. With other shows made at the time such as Blood Brothers by Willy Russell also showing this divide. As the show progresses although the plot is a Murder Mystery one cannot help but pick up on the class references in the show.

Ruth Rendell creates exquisite characters who all have a different story to tell (and a different motive to kill). The first characters the audience encounter are the two central characters of the play Detective Superintendent Vetch (played by Andrew Lancel) and Sergeant Challoner (played by Ben Nealon). Both men are your typical ‘Coppers’. It is at this time the audience meet Eunice Parchman played by Sophie Ward who is the house keeper.

Following on from this the play very cleverly follows a Non-linear narrative and jumps from the present to the past. The audience meet the family and their individual personalities start to show. The family as shown in the picture below on the settee are Melinda Coverdale, George Coverdale, Jacqueline Coverdale and Giles Mont.

We also meet three other characters also shown in the picture Eva Baalham, Joan Smith and Roger Meadows who is played by BLUE star Antony Costa.

I simply must also mention the wonderful set designed for the show as it was amazing. It was very reminiscent to that of The Mouse Trap and had a wonderful sense of grandeur to it, really helping to set the scene for the audience. I highly recommend you watch this play especially if you are a Murder Mystery fan but WILL YOU SOLVE THE CASE?

A Judgement In Stone is currently playing at the New Theatre until Saturday 8th April so make sure you get your tickets here- http://www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk/what’s-on/a-judgement-in-stone/

Review: Lakme, Swansea City Opera at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

4 Stars4 / 5

Absolutely beautiful – the colours of India, the sentiments of its time, the tragedy of love over birth – exquisite.

It makes me cry. I have loved the music from this rarely performed opera for years and years. It is absolutely beautiful. And the characters are all visually believable – both leads are young and lovely looking, their voices ardent as their passion. No one is miscast, no one is out of place.

It is as gentle and as curiously English as a Wildean play but with the underlying expectation of tragedy teasing us along the way. It is Madam Butterfly meets Passage to India. I wonder whether I may feel less or more affected were it sung in the original French and conclude a handsome, manly colonialist colliding with a hidden jewel of a local lass will sound the same in any language where it is sung with conviction.

The clash of backgrounds, religions, family and commitments is very predictable and the terrible messy tragedy of it all plays out predictably too. Delibes opera is based on Pavie’s story. But this is a predictable tale prettily told, beautifully visualised and fabulously well sung.

The Flower Duet between Lakme and Mallika is exquisite, Lakme’s Bell Song heart-achingly lovely with the sopranos comfortably balanced by the tenor of Gerald and the bass-baritone of Nilakantha.

The set feels a little clumsy initially but its simplicity allows us to concentrate on the opera and enjoy the music, the period costumes and the sublime singing. How lovely it is to revel in Lakme performed as it might have been at the turn of the last century.  

But yet again, I leave a performance wishing I could take it home with me somehow – I want to listen to it all again and again and I can’t – I want to take Lakme home with me, fill my house with her voice, send it out into the darkness of the night so others can hear her, feel her hope and her sorrow, scent the flowers in her garden, scream at her not to take the poisonous datura…

I am left bereft.

 Beautiful

 

 

Helen Joy for Get the Chance, 3rd Act Critics.

 

7 March, 7.30pm

Prices

£15 -22
Concessions: £2 off
Under 25s: Half price

More information

By Léo Delibes
Director Brendan Wheatley

Pre-show talk: 6.15pm

Running time: 135 minutes (20 minutes interval)

http://www.swanseacityopera.com/productions/lakme/

Tour dates: http://www.swanseacityopera.com/productions/lakme/

 

Review Lakmé, Swansea City Opera, Sherman Theatre by Barbara Michaels

 

3 Stars3 / 5

 

The opera Lakmé is possibly best known for the popular Flower Duet, composed by Delibes as a showcase for sopranos and performed in Act I by Lakmé and her maidservant Mallika. Lakmé is the daughter of Nilakantha a Brahmin Priest, and the story, set in British-governed India in the 19th century, centre around the love story of Lakmé and a British officer, Gerald. Nilakantha has been forbidden to practice his religion by the British and, full of hatred for the occupying force combined with an obsessive patriarchal love, vows revenge. When he discovers Lakmé has become attracted to Gérald, Nilakantha sets a trap for the soldier and knifes him. Lakmé hides Gérald in the forest and nurses him back to health, but his officer friend Frederic appears to remind him that he has been posted elsewhere. Duty calls – with tragic consequences.

All photographic credits Guy Harrop

The atmosphere of British India comes to the fore in the picnic scene in Act I with the two Army officers, their English girlfriends and governess, with a neat cameo role by New Zealand mezzo-soprano Rhonda Browne as the governess Mistress Bentson, permanently clutching her black Gladstone bag as if it were her saviour.

Romanian born soprano Madalina Barbu’s delicacy of appearance are ideal for the role of Lakmé. Barbu has performed in a number of demanding operatic roles,but does not cope well with all the high notes in the Act II aria Bell Song – a long-time favourite with coloratura sopranos – which is a pity given the high standard of other solo arias and in particular her duets with Gérald (Luke Sinclair). However, Barbu’s diction is not always clear, especially in Act I. Sung in English, it should not be a problem but surtitles would have helped.

As Gérald, Sinclair’s rounded tenor is first class, outstandingly so in his solo arias and duets with Barbu. His interaction with Mark Saberton’s Frederic is also good. As the Mr Nasty of the piece Nilakantha, Håkan Vramsmo bestrides the stage with lofty disdain and a powerful bass, while in the role of Nilakantha’s slave Hadji, Bo Wang gives a neat and well timed performance.

As both director, artistic director and set designer Brendan Wheatley has his work cut out. With the exception of the colourful market scene in Act II, Wheatley’s minimal set is just that, resulting in much of this opera’s Oriental ambience and emphasis on the natural beauty of flowers and trees being lost. There is not a tree or flower to be seen, unless you count the solitary lily thrown on stage in the final act.   Surely, Mr Wheatley, you could have run to a token miniature tree or so, and maybe a flowering bush? A local garden centre might be pleased to offer them gratis in return for a programme mention. For greenery, Wheatley relies heavily on the lighting to engender atmosphere, and full credit to lighting director James Thomas for doing his utmost to comply.

With its melodic score and passionate themes of love and persecution, this is opera to tug at your heart strings and this production by Swansea City Opera does that on all fronts. Considering the restrictions of opera on a shoestring – the company was rescued by funding from the Arts Council after Swansea withdrew their support – all credit to them for staging a most enjoyable performance. However, despite manful efforts, the small orchestra struggles to cope with the richness and delicate orchestration of Delibes score.

Home

Lakmé, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

Music: Léo Delibes

Libretto: Edmond Gondinet and Philippe Gille

New English Translation: Bridget Gill

Director: Brendan Wheatley

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels

 

 

REVIEW ANTON AND ERIN SWING TIME, ST DAVID’S HALL BY JAMES BRIGGS

“I’m puttin’ on my top hat, Tyin’ up my white tie, Brushin’ off my tails” to welcome the fabulous Strictly Come Dancing duo Anton Du Beke and Erin Boag. On Sunday 19th February a packed crowd at the St David’s Hall was treated to an afternoon of high class ballroom dancing from two of Strictly Come Dancing’s most famous dancers.

I must say I was extremely excited before watching this show as I am a big fan of Strictly Come Dancing and really love ballroom dancing so for me this show was a dream. The brilliant dancing duo was accompanied by a whole host of other dancers who were just as brilliant. The three male dancers easily kept up with the style of Du Beke and they were Scott Coldwell, Luke Field-Wright and Adam Lyons. The ladies dancing within the show were equally as brilliant and gave the same grace as Erin Boag. The brilliant ladies dancing were Hayley Ainsley, Victoria Hinde and Francesca Moffat.

Alongside the brilliant dancers within the show there was also a fabulous orchestra namely that of the London Concert Orchestra. Anton Du Beke himself joked about how he would have had the Welsh Concert Orchestra only they were too expensive. The London Concert orchestra was conducted by renowned conductor Richard Balcombe. The orchestra accompanied a very special guest singer for the show Lance Ellington who is one of the singers on the show Strictly Come Dancing. His voice was brilliant and worked very well with the music chosen for the show. He even joined in with some of the dances and certainly showed how massively talented all of the performers are on Strictly Come Dancing.

All of the brilliant dances were choreographed and directed by Nikki Woollaston who has worked on productions such as 42nd Street at the Theatre du Chatelet and many other tours with Anton Du Beke.

All in all Anton and Erin put on a fabulous show that really is a joy to behold. With such magical dance numbers and brilliant performances it really is a show not to be missed. So if you have chance to watch this amazing duo performing grasp it and just “face the music and dance”.

Tickets for the tour around he UK are available via – http://www.antonanderin.com/_blog/The-Anton-And-Erin-Blog/post/swing-time—our-2017-tour/

Review : La Cage Aux Folles, New Theatre By James Briggs

5 Stars5 / 5

Cardiff’s New Theatre was packed to the rafters with a dazzling array of glitter and sequins last night for the first performance of La Cage aux Folles. The musical adaptation of French playwright Jean Poiret’s script is largely recognised as one of the greatest modern musicals. The stage production, directed by Martin Connor, is a throwback to the old glamour and glitz associated with the French Riviera but also has a very key message in the story.

One of the leading characters, Georges, is played by the US TV and Broadway actor Adrian Zmed who greets the audience with a heartfelt welcome to La Cage. There was something a little different about this cabaret, however, in the form of all the main performers in the cast being men dressed as women.

‘La Cage’ is a drag cabaret club in the heart of Saint Tropez, run by Georges and his very flamboyant husband Albin who is played by West End actor and former Eastenders star John Partridge. As the audience are waiting for Albin’s arrival on stage we are first greeted by the appearance of his on-stage alter ego Zaza. John Partridge creates an impressive character as he struts across the stage in a robe and a pair of high heels. He wins over the audience from the beginning and really gives the part his all.

The story unfolds when Georges and Albin’s son, Jean- Michele, (Georges’ from a previous relationship) arrives to tell his father that he is engaged to Anne, the daughter of a French politician who is well-known for his conservative views. Jean- Michele played by Dougie Carter drops a few bombshells on his dad. Including that of breaking the news to Albin that he can’t be there when the parents come over for dinner at their home.

Albin is horrified when he hears the news and his disappointment leads to a spine tingling performance from John Partridge of the musical’s most iconic number ‘I Am What I am’. Georges and Albin soon make up and it’s easy to like the two contrasting co-stars who have a brilliant on-stage chemistry with each other which could be compared to that of Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi in the ITV series Vicious. The arrival of Dindon, the French politician, and his apparently conservative wife raised the bar once again on the entertainment as Albin comes up with a hilarious plan to meet the in-laws to be.

John Partridge’s performance as Albin and Zaza is absolutely superb and while the audience cheered and got to its feet for the entire cast, the largest applause and cheers were saved for him. During the performance John Partridge fell down some of the stairs on stage but being the true professional he is, kept in character and even made a joke about it. He carried on with the rest of the show and came on for the second act. Following the show John Partridge had to go to A&E and I really have to applaud him for being so professional and continuing with the show despite being in pain.

All of the cast were amazing and really very talented especially during the tap dancing scenes in which the male dancers very skillfully danced in high heels and gowns. A special mention must also go to Samson Ajewole who played Jacob and was exceptionally funny. He delivered a very strong performance and was one of the stars of the evening. As too was Marti Webb who played Jacqueline and created a very likeable character for the audience.

The stage sets used during the show were simply divine. All of the scenes in the show were very well thought out and the sets changed seamlessly. My personal favourite set design of the show was that of the stage at La Cage. The show saw a theatre stage constructed within a stage which is shown in the picture below and worked really well as it gave the audience the perspective of watching a whole different theatre on stage.

La Cage Aux Folles is a brilliant and moving, feel-good production that will be guaranteed to leave you smiling as you walk out the theatre doors and taking a whole new look on life. I urge everyone who get’s the chance to see the show to go as you will not regret it!

La Cage Aux Folles is currently on a UK tour so make sure you visit the New Theatre website in the link below and book your tickets before its too late.

http://www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk/what’s-on/la-cage-aux-folles/

 

Review : Michael Flatley’s ‘Lord Of The Dance: Dangerous Games’ by James Briggs

5 Stars5 / 5

This weekend Cardiff has had the luck of the Irish as Michael  Flatley’s worldwide phenomenon  ‘Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games’ has played in St David’s Hall. The tour is one of the biggest the UK has ever had and has currently been seen by 60 million people in 60 different countries on every continent. All of the stops are pulled out in this Irish Dancing Extravaganza with dancing that is simply mesmerising.

I have been looking forward to watching this show for a long time and being a tap dancer myself can appreciate the hard work and effort that goes into this form of dancing. I knew from the opening sequence alone we would be in for a good night. As the first half of the show begins the audience are greeted with a projected Michael Flatley and a giant clock alluding to the opening of the show.

The cast are very well cast and all of the characters within the show work well as a dance unit. The perfectly balanced ensemble of male and female dancers help to give depth to the story and in the dance sequences when they are all in a line and coordinated it really is something to admire. Their collective talent is unbelievable and there are moments where your jaw is in your lap watching their feet move almost as too fast to comprehend.  The  main lead Lord of the Dance was played by James Keegan and the Dark Lord was played by Zoltan Papp.

The show seemed to have a variety show feel to it with all of the acts being very diverse. They all managed to hold attention of the audience due to their frequent costume changes and the cleaver projections that portrayed Ireland as an Idyllic place filled with Unicorns and rainbows. The plot follows a little Spirit with a magic flute who battles against evil to save Ireland from being taken over by evil cyborgs. Along the way the Spirit meets different dancers as well as a Black Swan like love triangle that threatens to turn the head of Ireland’s saviour, the Lord of the Dance himself. The show culminates with a big fight for the title of Lord of the Dance.

You can’t help but have a big smile on your face when the full ensemble cast fill the width of the stage at St David’s Hall and with their legs kicking and tapping in perfect sync. The show’s best section and what will always be their most iconic is the ‘Lord of the Dance’, and the skill of the cast is amazing in which they gave four Encores at the end of the show of that very dance which was met with a standing ovation from the whole audience at St David’s Hall.

If you’re a fan of this type of dancing and the Irish music and culture this show is without a doubt the show for you to attend next. It provides a 5-star evening of entertainment with lots of ups and downs within the story. In my opinion this show is something everyone should experience once in their lifetime as it will enthral you.

For more information about the tour of the Lord of the Dance please visit the official website to see where the tour will be heading next. http://www.lordofthedance.com/

Review: ‘Sunny Afternoon’ by Gemma Treharne-Foose

5 Stars5 / 5

 

So it’s January, everyone is detoxing, skint after Christmas and bruised after Brexit, Trump and a string of celebrity deaths in 2016. I can hand on heart say that if you are suffering from SAD or have lost all hope for the year ahead, you need to find the sun behind those clouds and get your butt down to WMC pronto to see ‘Sunny Afternoon’, the touring production running until Saturday 21st, before it shuttles off elsewhere.

Even if you are not a fan of The Kinks or a fan of musicals featuring the back catalogue of certain bands (let’s not even mention ‘Viva Forever’ here!), you will be hard pressed to find a more inclusive and entertaining musical in 2017.

A real kick in the 60s!

The soundtrack to your Mam and Dad’s wild years, the show focuses on four working class lads riding the crest of the wave of the ‘British invasion’ in the 60s – the meteoric highs and the crushing lows.  Natalie Gallacher/Pippa Ailion’s casting of Ryan O’Donnell and Mark Newnham as brothers Ray and Dave is a triumph – the pair have sensational synergy and energetic friction on stage and O’Donnell’s sweet vulnerability shines through his entire performance.

Newnham is unmissable as outrageous rebel Dave, everything from his swagger, his cockney banter and his swinging from the chandelier in a pink dress had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.

The most famous of the Kinks’ songs were cleverly deconstructed and re-packaged, allowing us to delve further into the back story to possibly the most influential riffs and tunes ever written.  The scene where Ray and Dave are trying to perfect the edgy baseline to their hit song ‘You really got me’ is pure magic, reverberating through your chest and rattling around your rib cage.

There are some delicious comic lines, especially from the plummy stockbrokers-turned-agents Robert Wace and Grenville Collins, who groomed the four for stardom, even coming up with their name, with the help of another agent Larry Page.  I couldn’t help laughing out loud when one of them says in a voice that may remind you of certain Harry Enfield characters: ‘Now…let’s talk about it over a nice plate of kippers’.

You’ll laugh when Ray’s Dad (played by Robert Took) complains about ‘wearing out shoe leather’, about the house prices in Muswell Hill (£3,500 – with a £500 deposit!)…and you wonder what the hell Mr Davies would make of the prices in Muswell Hill these days. This is nostalgic but not cloying, sentimental but not syrupy.

There are multiple sharp observations and throwaway comments referencing other 60s bands and celebrities. When the managers find Ray in a depression in bed with Rasa his wife, one of them quips: ‘You wouldn’t find John Lennon lounging around in bed with his wife!’.  Later on, when the band are on tour in America and are uneasy about the guns and violence there, their manager assures them ‘You’re a pop star! You’re not important enough to shoot!’.

A blueprint for future musical trends

The real pleasure for those not born in the 60s is the discovery of music you didn’t know existed – for my parents’ generation, it’s all familiar territory.  But if you only know a handful of the old (and most famous) of songs by the Kinks, you get to unwrap a new gift.

Aided by the clever studio/house/concert hall design of the stage by Miriam Bluether and the choreography by Adam Cooper, watching ‘Sunny Afternoon’ will transport you back to the excitement, the optimism and the feeling of being on the cusp of something completely original and unchartered.  

From the time THAT guitar riff kicks in, you understand exactly what it is your Mum has been harping on about all these years. It’s hard to imagine how utterly new, how extraordinary this must have felt for teenagers in the 60s, to go from stale crooners in suits to long haired rebels with rock guitars.  

The Kinks were the masters of social commentary which would foreshadow the later emergence of musicians and bands of my generation: the blueprint for American garage and rock bands like grungy Nirvana in the 80s and the Britpop boom in the 90s.  I hadn’t realised it until last night but ‘A well respected man’ was clearly influential for Damon Albarn and his crew with Blur’s hit ‘Country House’.

Delightfully rebellious, clever and heartfelt

Credit must be given to the wonderful pacing, characterisation and story for the musical by Ray Davies himself.  It’s clearly a personal and heartfelt snapshot of an incredible moment in history.  The result is rebellious, clever and heartfelt and I witnessed something I hadn’t yet seen at the Wales Millennium Centre: an entire audience on their feet, no awkward seat lurkers in sight. Inhibitions were gone and for a moment I felt like we were watching the real Kinks.  I was genuinely sad to leave the theatre and re-emerge into 2017.

My Mum, who had accompanied me (and by the end was a bawling mess) had enjoyed every last morsel of the show. I asked her why she was crying, she said: ’I remember it – I remember it all!’.  If only to see what your parents saw, feel how they felt and see how bloody awesome the fashion and sounds of the sixties actually were, this is an absolute treat of a show.  

Type of show: Theatre

Title: Sunny Afternoon

Venue: Wales Millennium Centre  

Dates: 17 – 21 Dec (Touring show)

Directed by:  Edward Hall

Music, Lyrics, Original Story: Ray Davies

Choreographer: Adam Cooper

Sound: Matt McKenzie

Musical Director: Barney Ashworth

Cast:

Ryan O’Donnell (Ray Davies)

Mark Newnham (Dave Davies)

Richard Hurst (Larry)

Tomm Coles (Grenville Collins)

Joseph Richardson (Robert Wace)

Lisa Wright (Rasa)

Garmon Rhys (Pete Quaife)

Running time: Approx 3 hours (with interval)

Produced by: Sonia Friedman Productions and Ambassador Theatre Group