Sunny Afternoon

Sep 14 2016 | By More

★★★★☆    Kinky Bootiful

Edinburgh Playhouse: Tue 13 – Sat 17 Sept 2016
Review by Martin Gray

One of the seminal British bands of the Sixties gets the biographical treatment at The Playhouse this week in Sunny Afternoon, a show that’s several cuts above the jukebox musical you may be expecting.

The Kinks. I’ve never noticed what a daft name that is. Well, they’ve always been there, purveyors of a particular kind of folksy British pop somewhere between Madness and XTC but, of course, pre-dating both.

Garmon Rhys (Pete Quaife), Ryan O'Donnell (Ray Davies), Andrew Gallo (Mick Avory) and Mark Newnham (Dave Davies). Photo Kevin Cummins

Garmon Rhys (Pete Quaife), Ryan O’Donnell (Ray Davies), Andrew Gallo (Mick Avory) and Mark Newnham (Dave Davies). Photo Kevin Cummins

It turns out they were previously known as The Ravens but came up with the more famous name while being literally groomed for stardom in a Carnaby Street tailors and looking a tad kinky.

Of course they did – that’s also where Ray Davies, brother Dave and pals Mick Avory and Pete Quaife came up with Dedicated Follower of Fashion. Oh yes they did…

… or maybe they didn’t, I’m not going to look it up and let Wikipedia ruin a good show. And this is a really good show, as we follow the Muswell Hill quartet’s rise to fame from their beginnings as a jobbing beat combo to their topping the UK charts and curtailed attempts to crack the USA… despite being probably Britain’s only socialist pop group, they ran afoul of the Musicians Union and the Teamsters.

There’s romance as songwriter Ray falls for Bradford belle Rasa and she falls pregnant; tension between jazz-crazy drummer Mick and bassist Pete; the latter’s feelings of isolation in the band; and problems with too many managers. It’s a packed show, but never feels overstuffed.

under-appreciated genius

Thank writer Joe Penhall for that, as his script speedily sketches in enough character bits to make you care, but never sticks with a moment long enough for you to get bored. Well, there are a lot of songs to fit in, each one a testament to Ray Davies’ under-appreciated genius: You Really Got Me, Stop Your Sobbing, Denmark Street, A Well Respected Man, Just Can’t Get To Sleep and more are slotted in seamlessly to move the story along, either as performances or more personal pieces of the narrative

Ryan O'Donnell (Ray Davies), Mark Newnham (Dave Davies), Andrew Gallo (Mick Avory) and Garmon Rhys (Pete Quaife). Photo Kevin Cummins

Ryan O’Donnell (Ray Davies), Mark Newnham (Dave Davies), Andrew Gallo (Mick Avory) and Garmon Rhys (Pete Quaife). Photo Kevin Cummins

And they’re beautifully performed by a cast as able to play the emotions as they are multiple instruments. The chemistry between Ray (Ryan O’Donnell) and Rasa (Lisa Wright) is terrific, they find a real tenderness, wonderfully expressed in the standout Sitting In My Hotel/I Go To Sleep sequence. O’Donnell does the real Ray Davies proud, bringing the best out of the more melodic tunes and really going for it on the rockier numbers.

Mark Newnham enjoys the goofy volatility of Dave, Garmon Rhys makes the most of his few spotlight scenes as Pete and Andrew Gallo is terrific as not-so-gentle giant Mick – and his long drum solo, showing just how much his skills aren’t showcased by the band, is several minutes of unfettered joy.

The rest of the ensemble inhabit their various roles with glee – especially Michael Warburton, who gets to be Austrian one minute, American the next. He also plays the drums when Mick’s needed upfront, which can get a little confusing when he’s still dressed as Eddie Kassner – why is The Kinks’ publisher playing percussion? Still, a cast in which almost everyone plays an instrument as well as acting, singing and dancing makes for a richer theatrical pie.


I could, though, have done without the man sitting on the floor by the drums, handing out guitars and untangling wires, who didn’t seem to exist in the world of the play. The poor guy’s just doing his job, and no doubt very well, but it was a tad distracting.

Ryan O'Donnell (Ray Davies). Photo Kevin Cummins

Ryan O’Donnell (Ray Davies). Photo Kevin Cummins

Edward Hall’s direction and Adam Cooper’s choreography combine to give us a zippy stage experience, with musical director Barney Ashworth and guitarist Andy Gammon also making a massive contribution. Miriam Buether’s set designs are clever – but not clever clever. A wall of amplifiers sounds weird, but it’s the perfect backdrop, and easy to modify for different settings. Great costumes too, very evocative of the Sixties setting.

You don’t have to be a big Kinks fan to enjoy this musical. You may not even realise Ray Davies penned the likes of I Go To Sleep, Stop Your Sobbing and Days – delivered here in a beautiful a Capella arrangement – which were massive hits for Chrissie Hynde and Kirsty MacColl. But once you see Sunny Afternoon, you’ll never forget it.

Running time: 2 hours 40 mins (including one interval)
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA.
Tuesday 13 – Saturday 17 September 2016
Daily, 7.30pm. Matinees Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 2.30pm.

Tickets and booking details:

Sunny Afternoon website:

Sunny Afternoon on tour:
Tue 13 – Sat 17 Sep 2016 Edinburgh
0844 871 3014 Book online
Tue 20 – Sat 24 Sep 2016 Southend on Sea
Cliffs Pavilion
01702 351135 Book online
Tue 27 Sept – Sat 1 Oct 2016 Aylesbury
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
08448 717 627 Book online
Tue 4 – Sat 8 Oct 2016 Sunderland
Sunderland Empire
0844 871 3022 Book online
Tue 11 – Sat 15 Oct 2016 Glasgow
King’s Theatre
0844 871 7648 Book online
Tue 18 – Sat 22 Oct 2016 Torquay
Princess Theatre
0844 871 3023 Book online
Tue 25 – Sat 29 Oct 2016 Sheffield
Lyceum Theatre
0114 249 6000 Book online
Tue 1 – Sat 5 Nov 2016 Woking
New Victoria
0844 871 7645 Book online
Tue 8 – Sat 12 Nov 2016 Aberdeen
His Majesty’s
01224 641122 Book online
Tue 15 – Sat 19 Nov 2016 Dartford
Orchard Theatre
01322 220000 Book online
Tue 29 Nov – Sat 3 Dec 2016 Stoke-on-Trent
Regent Theatre
0844 871 7649 Book online
Tue 13 – Sat 31 Dec 2016 Brighton
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7650 Book online
Tue 10 – Sat 14 Jan 2017 Northampton
Royal & Derngate
01604 624811 Book online
Tue 17 – Sat 21 Jan 2017 Cardiff
Wales Millennium Centre
029 2063 6464 Book online
Tue 24 – Sat 28 Jan 2017 Nottingham
Theatre Royal
0115 989 5555 Book online
Tue 31 Jan – Sat 4 Feb 2017 Oxford
New Theatre
0844 871 3020 Book online
Tue 7 – Sat 11 Feb 2017 Liverpool
08448 713 017 Book online
Tue 14 – Sat 18 Feb 2017 Llandudno
Venue Cymru
01492 872000 Book online
Tue 21 – Sat 25 Feb 2017 York
The Grand Opera House
08448 472 322 Book online
Tue 28 Feb – Sat 4 Mar 2017 Bradford
Alhambra Theatre House
01274 432000 Book online
Tue 7 – Sat 11 Mar 2017 Bristol
0844 871 3012 Book online
Tue 21 – Sat 25 Mar 2017 Dublin
Bord Gais Energy Theatre
0844 847 2455 Book online
Tue 4 – Sat 8 April 2017 Canterbury
Marlow Theatre
01227 787787 Book online
Tue 11 – Sat 14 April 2017 Norwich
Theatre Royal
01603 63 00 00 Book online
Tue 2 – Sat 6 May 2017 Belfast
Grand Opera House
028 9024 1919 Book online


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