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Sunny Afternoon (Harold Pinter Theatre)

The Kinks were arguably the first band to play hard rock, and this show, loosely based on the true story of their rise to fame as told by lead singer Ray Davies, certainly delivers on the sound – at times it is ear-shatteringly loud, especially once the few teasing chords of ‘You Really Got Me’ turn into a full performance of the song.

sunny

Songs shoehorned into a story are only ever partially successful, which is probably why the big and loud numbers like ‘All Day And All Of The Night’, ‘Till The End of the Day’, and ‘Lola’ are presented in concert settings.  ‘Dead End Street’ is wittily repurposed to be sung by Ray and Dave’s dad, in their dingy flat, while ‘That Strange Effect’ (a favourite of the songs written by Ray Davies but best known for the version by Dave Berry) is used for an awkward love scene between ‘Ray’ and eventual first wife and Kinks back-up singer Rasa.  The two also have a trans-Atlantic duet over the ‘phone to ‘I Go To Sleep’ (best known these days for the version by a later girlfriend of Ray’s, Chrissie Hynde, with the Pretenders).

Performances are broadly good, with the central quartet of Danny Horn (Ray), Oliver Hoare (Dave), Tom Whitelock (Pete Quaife) and Damien Walsh (Mick Avory) evolving from gawky working-class louts to assured ‘followers of fashion’.  (Actually on the night we saw this, Walsh was replaced after the interval, by I think Alex Tosh, which was interesting in itself and proved that the cast was at least versatile in the face of change).  In supporting roles we have Jason Baughan as grasping publisher Eddie Kassner, Megan Leigh Mason (excellent) as Rasa, Charlie Tigh and Gabriel Vick as silly twit managers Grenville and Bobby, and Stephen Pallister in dual roles as Mr Davies and Allen Klein, their powerful late promoter.

It might be churlish to say that having closed the show, plot-wise, with ‘Waterloo Sunset’ and a curtain-call, we then switch to Madison Square Gardens for a performance of ‘Lola’ in which the audience is chivvied to its feet for a sneaky standing ovation, but there’s enough here to recommend this, if not at full-price, at least for any discount you can get during promotions.  We were in the front row of the dress circle, which was close up and high enough to give a good view of the moments which took place on the extended stage into the front stalls.

Amusing moment: ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’, where the band start to develop their sartorial style.  Moving moment: Ray and Dave’s duet ‘A Long Way From Home’ (the show closes in 1970 and so does not address the breakdown of the sibling relationship, or the decline of Ray and Rasa’s marriage).  The programme may be rather flowery about the Kinks’ back catalogue, but there is certainly enough here to give a flavour of their varied output.  Curiously, Edward Hall directs, and I still think of him as primarily a Shakespeare specialist.  On this evidence, he’s not bad with a musical hook either.


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