Whether you're a Kinks fan or not, this musical has a lot to offer. It's loud, energetic, playful and sincere. I find a lot of musicals a little too contrived; this one doesn't try too hard to deliver a happy ending or impress with clever twists/other clichéd plot manoeuvres. It merely takes the story of how the Kinks came to be, presents their rise to stardom and then focuses on the many struggles and pitfalls along the way. The sets are playful, the music loud, the choreography zippy and the humour relevant (painfully so, at points).
Another distinctive feature of this show is its sheer manliness. All too often, regardless of subject matter and male-female cast ratio, musicals are bulging with femininity. Not Sunny Afternoon – it's got a raw maleness to it that is incredibly refreshing. My top blokes were Kinks' frontman Ray Davies, played by Ryan O'Donnell, who looks so comfortable in the role that you can't imagine him playing anyone else. Little brother Dave Davies was performed by Mark Newnham who manifests a clownish, foppish and messed up character that is utterly beguiling and then there is Andrew Gallow as Mick Avory, who delivers an AMAAAAZING drum solo in the same way that you or I might do the washing up – sort of casual, but determined.
I am too young to have been an original Kinks fan but I first found myself listening to their music in the mid 1990s when Britpop was taking off. It was clear then just how much bands such as Blur, and even Oasis had been influenced by them, from their cheeky lyrics to the more technical stylistic musical stuff that I am too ignorant to describe accurately. I became nostalgic for a time I never knew, though one that I believed to be more exciting and revolutionary than the one I was in.
There is a point in Sunny Afternoon when Ray Davies denounces the concept of the 'swinging 60s,' saying it's all just an illusion; a cover up for the fact that there are families starving on the bread line. Indeed, the musical makes no bones of the fact that much of life is nothing like how we may have fantasised it to be – fame being a prime example. At points, most members of the band look back on their pre-success days with a homesick longing, grieving for a time when they were more honest, less afraid and freer.
The subjects explored in Sunny Afternoon are not always happy, but the music and the sheer talent on the stage is incredibly cheering. It's an awkward time to talk about Great Britain, and London, and all things to do with national pride, but my goodness when 'Waterloo Sunset' comes on, I felt a tiny pang of something terribly British and terribly cool, and I liked it.