Sunshine on Leith

Mar 7 2024 | By More

★★★★☆    High quality

Church Hill Theatre: Tues 5 – Sat 9 Mar 2024
Review by Hugh Simpson

The Bohemians Lyric Opera Company’s production of Sunshine on Leith at the Church Hill Theatre is tuneful, colourful, emotionally direct and builds up a considerable head of steam.

Stephen Greenhorn’s 2007 jukebox musical featuring the songs of the Proclaimers has become a firm favourite, particularly with Scottish audiences.

Scott Binnie and Colin Sutherland. Pic Ric Brannan Photography

The story of soldiers Davy and Ally returning from Afghanistan, and their lives, loves and family, is certainly a notably well written and heartfelt example of the genre. Many of the songs fit into the narrative a lot better than is often the case.

Perhaps echoing Greenhorn’s work on River City, the interconnected plot-lines do have a certain soap-opera feel. The second half does tend to meander, and you have to be a die-hard fan of the Proclaimers not to feel there is at least one song too many.

This can be made more obvious on stage if the procession of short scenes is badly handled – some past productions have notoriously reached the three-hour mark.

pacy production

Not so here, at least at first. Some elegant back-projections do much of the initial heavy lifting in setting the scene, but later on the familiar belief resurfaces that a scene at a bus stop must have a physical bus stop on stage. When the gap between scenes is longer than the scene that follows, it is definitely time to reconsider.

This is a rare mis-step, however, in the otherwise exemplary direction of Malcolm J. Burnett. The production is pacy, makes notable use of the whole stage, and utilises the acting and singing talents of some excellent principals as well as an impressive chorus.

Colin Cairncross, Colin Sutherland and Christine Mills. Pic Ric Brannan Photography

Colin Sutherland’s Davy is thoroughly likeable, and his duets with Cathy Geddie’s Yvonne have a real tunefulness and sparkle. Scott Binnie’s agreeably downtrodden Ally also shines in his duets with Kirsty Hogg’s Liz.

One of the peculiarities of the narrative is the way that the focus switches to Davy and Liz’s parents Rab (Colin Cairncross) and Jean (Christine Mills), who eventually become the heart of the story. Cairncross and Mills are both emotionally believable, with Mills in particular delivering a winning blend of comedy and pathos.


Amy Macrae, as Rab’s hitherto unknown daughter Eilidh, is similarly convincing. All of the featured cast share a commendable determination to tell the story through the songs and the characters’ interactions.

The harmonies in the duets and trios are exceptionally impressive, with this carrying over into the occasions when members of the ensemble have their featured moments – Bethany Dunion, Kirsten Simpson, Emma Clarkson, Donald Randall and Ethan Baird are particularly memorable.

The Bohemians’ Sunshine on Leith company. Pic Ric Brannan Photography.

Such clarity is not always evident in the full chorus numbers. Perhaps a 36-strong ensemble is simply too much, but in the more uptempo songs the sound becomes uncomfortably muddy. This is unfortunate, as the band under MD Finlay Turnbull are pin-sharp and utterly tuneful throughout.

There is also no criticism that can be levelled at the movement of the chorus, with the choreography of Fiona Burns being absolutely first rate.

big heart

Scott Davidson’s lighting also impresses, albeit after something of a false start. The opening scene may well be set on military manoeuvres, but a large proportion of the audience having to shield their eyes from the direct glare of a spotlight is not necessarily advisable.

Such small mistakes are easily forgiven in a production with such a big heart, such pace and such panache.

Running time: Two hours and 35 minutes (including one interval).
Church Hill Theatre, 30 Morningside Rd, EH10 4DR
Tuesday 5 – Saturday 9 March 2024
Daily at 7.30 pm; Matinee Sat 2.30 pm
Tickets and details: Book here (returns only).

The Bohemians Website:
Facebook: @bohemiansedinburgh
Instagram: bohemiansedinburgh
X: @bohemians_ed

The Bohemians’ Sunshine on Leith chorus. Pic Ric Brannan Photography.


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