Sunshine on Leith

May 26 2022 | By More

★★★★☆     Bring me sunshine

Brunton Theatre: Wed 25 – Sat 28 May 2022
Review by Martin Gray

Community theatre gets real this week at the Brunton in Musselburgh, where this fab amateur production of Sunshine on Leith is running until Saturday.

It’s not often you’re at a musical and can imagine audience members swapping places with the people on stage. A production of The Proclaimers’ jukebox show staged not 500, but six, miles from Leith, though?

Oh yeah! The characters are recognisable, not only looking, but sounding like us, and, in Stephen Greenhorn’s tweaked-for-2022 script, talking about the things we talk about. So there’s a reference to the 2014 referendum, what it must be like to be Nicola Sturgeon…

The Sunshine on Leith company. Pic David Ross

Mostly, though, this is all about the tunes, with crowd pleasers such as I’m On My Way, Letter From America and I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) dotted throughout the story of couples Jean and Rab, Liz and Ally, and Davy and Yvonne.

Jean and Rab are about to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary, while nurse daughter Liz reunites with boyfriend Ally, who’s just back from serving with the Army in Afghanistan and looking towards a new future.

His best pal happens to be Liz’s brother Davy, who also wants to settle down into civilian life, perhaps with Lizzie’s English colleague Yvonne. Of course, there are bumps in the road, but with each bump comes a song, and that’s what the audience is here for.

somewhat on the nose

To the ear of the non-Proclaimers devotee, a few are unmemorable, such as a couple of tunes performed, admittedly sweetly, by one of the gentlemen of the Ensemble on acoustic guitar.

Still, you can’t argue with the big hits, the stone cold classics, even if they are somewhat on the nose in terms of the narrative. “My heart is broken…” sings Jean at the start of the title number after Rab has a heart attack; “When you go, will you send back a letter from America?” as Liz prepares to move to Miami.

The Sunshine on Leith company. Pic David Ross

Sound problems bedevil the first few scenes, with coats rustling and barely there voices. The impression left is that there are only about three properly functioning mics, so the ensemble members in opening number Sky Takes the Soul are pretty indistinct. Over and Done With likewise suffers, it’s seriously tough to make out what’s being sung.

Things do settle down, allowing the leads to really show what they’re made of. Highlights include Life With You from Rab (Gary McGregor), Ally (Ryan Buist) and Davy (Dan Cook); Letter From America from Jean (Laura Cross) and Liz (Nikki Kingsley); and Misty Eyes from Yvonne (Melissa McNaught) and Davy. And that title number is beautifully interpreted by Cross – it’s a shame the script moves on without leaving space for applause.

an air of authenticity

The lack of technical perfection when it comes to some of the ensemble singing lends an air of authenticity to proceedings… we’re not all going to be brilliant in a pub singalong. The supporting players can’t be faulted when it comes to gusto.

The acting is uniformly great, there’s never a moment that doesn’t ring true, whether it’s the emotion of Liz telling Jean of her plans or the humour of Rab’s visit to a book signing. The cast don’t even have to be speaking to entertain – a couple of the women are doing delightful things with dusters before the exuberant presentation of Should Have Been Loved.

The Sunshine on Leith company. Pic David Ross

One of the biggest laughs of the night comes via a Waverley Station announcement promising that the ‘10.13 ScotRail service to Dunbar’ will be arriving… So far as deliberate humour is concerned, Brett Herriot brings tremendous camp fun to his cameo as a call centre trainer.

Despite the two-hour length, the staging is occasionally a little rushed in director David Ross’ production. Davy’s almost assault on a pub customer is undersold and too speedy to really register, for example. I’m On My Way should leave a much bigger impression. And there’s a little too much scenery coming and going for the sake of tiny scenes.

standing ovation

The musical accompaniment led by Julie Robinson is generally very good – the piano occasionally overwhelms dialogue, but doubtless this will be adjusted as the week goes on.

The point that has to be made is that despite a few production blips and areas in which things could be tightened up, this production of Sunshine on Leith more than earned its standing ovation from the first night crowd. It’s definitely bringing the sunshine to Musselburgh.

Running time: Two hours and 15 minutes (including one interval)
The Brunton, Ladywell Way, Musselburgh EH21 6AA.
Wednesday 25– Saturday 28 May 2022
Evenings: 7.30pm; Sat mat: 2pm.
Tickets and details:  Book here.

The Sunshine on Leith company. Pic David Ross


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