#Tweetingit – review in 140 characters: 5* A magnificent tribute to the originators of cool Britannia.Great songs written by Ray Davies provide a timely reminder of when we were proud to be British.
To a nostalgia obsessed geek like me, the 1960s were mainly about two things; the music and England winning the World Cup in 1966. Yes, our heroes in cherry red shirts despatching the Germans with a style befitting Swinging London. But what was riding high in the charts when Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy? Sunny Afternoon by the Kinks of course. The epitome of cool Britannia summed up in a tantalisingly brief moment of perfection. The Kinks remain one of my favourite 60s bands (second only to the Beatles), and felt like a kid on Christmas Eve as I strolled up to the Harold Pinter Theatre.
Annoyingly, we had to peer around concrete posts in the stalls, but nothing could spoil this passionate love note to a much simpler era. The story began with a number from the Ravens, one of the band’s early incarnations, smartly moving through a medley of the band’s hits including Dead End Street, Dedicated Follower of Fashion and Set me free. There is a strong sense of the boys’ working class upbringing in North London; and a loving family nurturing the band’s yin and yang, Ray and Dave Davies. The band member roles were clearly defined early on; Ray, songwriting genius sparring with his skittish younger brother Dave, who was born to play lead guitar.The quartet was completed by the highly strung Peter Quaife on Bass and self-assured Mick Avory on drums.
Aside from showcasing a classic back catalogue the production also works as a strong autobiographical piece, highlighting some colourful episodes in the band’s history; like the on stage bust up between Dave Davies and Mick Avory; the inevitable management rip off of royalties due to Ray Davies; and the band’s dispute with the American Musicians Union leading to a five year ban Stateside. But above all, we have the songs; wonderful creations which are around 50 years old, but sound so fresh they might have been recorded yesterday. The raw power of You really got me is well represented, with the legend of Dave Davies splitting the amp speaker to create that amazing fuzz guitar riff. In fact, an almost identical guitar riff graced the band’s second number one, All Day and all of the night, but hey, when you’re hot, you’re hot!?
Some bright choreography from Adam Cooper added visual impact as the title song and Tired of waiting for you took their bow; and the finest song they ever committed to vinyl, the beautiful, haunting Waterloo Sunset; a quintessentially English song, which stands comparison with anything written by Lennon and McCartney. A glorious finale takes us to the dawn of the 1970s, and the outrageously funny Lola (what no Apeman!?). One can only admire the volume and quality of songs and influence they had on performers that followed them. Just consider the songs that have been hits for others? The Jam (David Watts), Kirsty McColl (Days) and Pretenders (I go to sleep) have all had hits with Kinks songs; Madness, Squeeze and Blur have also cited the band as a major influence. With a great story and timeless pop songs to draw on, it would be difficult to make a mess of this
show. Even so, the creatives deserve immense credit for staging such a well-rounded production.
The casting is faultless with some outstanding individual performances, particularly Ryan O’Donnell as Ray Davies and Robbie White as Dave Davies. While the Kinks were recording and touring well into the 1990s, they will be inextricably linked to the 1960s and the almost mythical status enjoyed by the decade. Nostalgia works when it reminds us of something better we don’t have now. Tragically, we don’t have a 21 st century version of the Kinks; so we’ll just have to make do with this magnificent tribute to Ray and the boys. Thank heavens!
Music and Lyrics: Ray Davies
Book: Joe Penhall
Director: Edward Hall
Musical Director: Elliott Ware
Choreographer: Adam Cooper
Producer: Sonia Friedman Productions
Booking Link: http://sunnyafternoonthemusical.com/book-tickets/
Box Office: 020 7492 1548
Booking until: October 2016 followed by a national tour