Sunny Afternoon – Review – Bradford Alhambra
By Sandra Callard, February 2017
Sir Raymond Davies CBE, better known as Ray Davies, lead singer of the 60s rock band, The Kinks, is one of the most influential and successful songwriters of his era. Born in Muswell Hill, London he balanced out the onslaught of Northern bands in the early sixties, and brought the authentic voice of working class London to the mix.
The story of the rise, fall and rise again of this unique band is brought to the stage by Davies, who provided the original story, the music and the lyrics, in Sunny Afternoon, now touring after a successful run in the West End, and the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford was my venue to see how it all panned out.
Well, it most certainly did pan out, gloriously and vividly recalling the sixties and the unique and unquestionably great songs that Davies wrote. The mind-blowing first hit of The Kinks, ‘You Really Got Me’, the style-mocking ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’, the emotive ‘Waterloo Sunset’, the beautiful ‘Days’, and the rest of those wonderfully nostalgic songs that Davies produced by the shed-load in those heady days of the Swinging Sixties, are reprised here in sympathetic and infinite detail.
“Total immersion in the character”
Davies himself is played and sung by Ryan O’Donnell. Physically and facially looking so much like Davies, he brings the spirit of the man to life to the extent that you forget at times that you are not actually watching Davies himself. He has the looks, the physique and the idiosyncrasies of the original. If his voice slightly lacks the irony and vulnerability of the original, his total immersion in the character makes up for it.
The other three members of the band, the madcap Dave Davies (brilliantly and hilariously played by Mark Newnham), Mick Avory (played by Andrew Gallo, himself a fantastic drummer), and Pete Quaife (a lovely portrayal of the nervous but talented musician by Garmon Rhys), hold the group together well, as each show the weaknesses that made Davies’s efforts at keeping them together all the more laudable.
The stage looks twice as big as it usually does, with record discs on three walls, and a recording studio tucked away at the back, and appearing to take up no room at all. There is also a narrow projecting stage which jutts out like a catwalk, almost to the front row, emphasising some pensive and emotional moments from the cast.
The supporting actors are excellent to a man, and a woman, particularly Deryn Edwards as Ray’s mum, Joseph Richardson as Robert Wace, and Lisa Wright as Rasa, Ray’s first wife.
The man of the moment is undoubtedly Ryan O’Donnell, a sensitive and perceptive Ray Davies, who held the band together through its darker moments. He evokes perfectly the borderline ennui that came through Davies’s voice, his nostalgia and his pride in his birthright.
Ray Davies provided the inspiration and the story for this musical. All the songs are by him, both lyrics and music, producing an intensely personal view of those, by now, far away days.
So, is Sunny Afternoon true to the memory of this innovative band? It most surely is, but it will also knock the socks off any sixties rock fan, and indeed to all who love clever, beautifully written vocals and music.
images: Kevin Cummins