Sunday, 12 October 2014

'Sunny Afternoon' - Harold Pinter Theatre

'Sunny Afternoon' is the story of The Kinks in the 1960s. The play has transferred from the Hampstead Theatre to the Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End with the same cast. I saw it at Hampstead earlier this year and enjoyed it so much I had to return and I'm pleased I did.

It's billed as being 'based on the music of The Kinks' but it's really the story of Ray and Dave Davies and portrays Ray as an almost reluctant pop star while Dave embraces it and lives up to his nickname of Dave the Rave. Ray is credited as being responsible for the original story (as well as for the songs, of course) and, given that he likes to keep us guessing about what really happened in the past, I suspect some of the episodes aren't necessarily 100% accurate, but it's all good fun anyway. It has the same cast and staging as at Hampstead and if anything that means it's better and tighter since they're more used to each other by now.

The play opens with The Kinks as a backing band for a toff singing a toff's party until Dave lets rip with some energetic guitar and the toff and his friend become their managers. We see Dave inventing the riff to 'You Really Got Me' in his bedroom with Ray, making it dirtier by destroying the speaker and then their struggles in the studio and on tour. Ray gets married and has a daughter while the band want more songs out of him.

The second half opens with The Kinks on tour in America and getting banned, while Ray has a breakdown at home. He sues the management and writes 'Sunny Afternoon' to be sung on the terraces at Wembley for the World Cup in 1966. They return to Number 1 with 'Waterloo Sunset' and we jump forward to 1970 for a closing version of 'Lola' (with the audience on its feet, singing along) mixed with 'All Day And All Of The Night'.

The beauty of a musical based on Ray's songs is that he's got a song for every mood and every circumstance so nothing is strained or bent to make it fit. There are some lovely scenes and one of my favourites was Ray singing 'Long Way From Home' to Dave before signing the contract with Alan Klein that he didn't want to sign.

The cast were excellent and, having performed together at Hampstead, are already tight and on the ball.  John Dalgleish and George Maguire were excellent as Ray and Dave, playing off each other nicely even though they don't look at all like brothers. John does tortured genius very well and George lives up to the Rave nickname effortlessly.

The play is quick paced and keeps going at a gallop from scene to scene, packing in the action and the  music. There's still a runway out into the stalls and this gives the cast a lot of space to play and run around. The set is the same as Hampstead with mainly the amplifier background for most of the scenes, with an American flag for the American tour. There are approximately 2,357 costume changes for the girls, from fans at concerts to go-go dancers on telly shows and I applaud their quick-change skills.

It is, all in all, great fun and should be seen by anyone who appreciates music or some good sibling rivalry. The audience was definitely of a certain age to have seen the Kinks the first time around and it was great for the whole audience to get to our feet to sing along to 'Lola' (just as everyone does at Ray Davies shows). What is it about that song that drags people to their feet and sing a love song to a transexual? It was, of course, as I've mentioned before, my first ever 7" single.

I loved it. I even loved the lady behind me and a few seats over feeling the need to sing along to a few of the songs (especially 'Days'). It's the music, as well as the play, that's opening her mouth and making her sing (and she had a nice voice). The only downside was there was no programme and no merchandise. A West End theatre that runs out of programmes? What? And please, 'Sunny Afternoon' management, get some Kinks and Ray and Dave solo merch in - people will buy it y'know. Audiences like having something to take home as a memory. A cast recording with, I think, 28 songs, will be available at the end of this month so I'll certainly be getting that.

I hope this show runs for a long, long time. I'll be going back again, maybe a few rows nearer the stage so I get showered in confetti when… well, that would be telling. Go on people, go and see this excellent show. Keep it alive, keep it vibrant and keep it Kinky!

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