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Sunny Afternoon

Published May 2, 2014

What’s it all about?

A definitive guide to The Kinks’ rise to fame against a backdrop of swinging 60s London, World Cup hopes and fractious social politics. Based on an original story by lead singer Ray Davies and featuring a book by Joe Penhall, this is not a play with Kinks songs thrown in, but a full-blown musical complete with jazz hands, tap dancing and Pan’s People-style dancing girls. Well, it is the 60s after all.

It may have all the exuberance of a jukebox musical, but with the addition of the legendary group’s classic songs and the bubbling undercurrent of the band’s tempestuous and fiery relationship, Edward Hall’s production has edge and a rock ‘n’ roll spirit that is infectious. As the band turns the amps up to 10 and knocks back neat vodka, I’d hazard a guess that much of the audience would have gladly joined the party given half the chance.

Who’s in it?

John Dagleish stars as Ray; anxious, passionate and thrown into a world of contracts, lawyers and money miles away from his dreams of telling his stories through his deeply personal songs. While his compelling performance is in no way a Stars In Their Eyes impression of Davies, he perfectly captures the edgy and sometimes homesick spirit of a local lad turned good who, while resistant of all that fame entails, can’t help but be a star on stage.

Adam Sopp is witty and impressive on the drums as the surly Mick, while Ned Derrington gives a heartwarming performance as Pete, but it is George Maguire who undoubtedly steals the show as Dave the Rave. Progressing from cocky teenager to a swaggering rock God who swigs champagne and keeps pill bottles in his pants, his performance is frantic and electric.

What should I look out for?

Davies’ ingenious arrangements of songs. While fans will be pleased to hear you’re guaranteed an ear plugs-essential straight up performance of You Really Got Me, others get a musical theatre makeover with Davies’ I Go To Sleep performed as a forlorn marriage duet and Days in a cappella choral harmonies.

Who was in the press night crowd?

Amongst a telling number of West End producers in the house, famous faces turned up in their droves to boogie to Lola and join the after party, from ex-EastEnders Tamzin Outhwaite and Tracy-Ann Oberman to theatre regulars Penny Lancaster and Anneka Rice. Alan Rickman was also spotted grooving – in a Severus Snape kind of way – to Lola during the curtain call behind Mike Leigh.

In a nutshell?

A joyful explosion of rock ‘n’ roll, passion and drive that will have you on your feet and dancing before you can say La La La La Lola….

What’s being said on Twitter?

@mouthwaiteUplifting and touching… Could watch it all again tonight. #SunnyAfternoon

@megrosoff Sunny Afternoon at Hampstead Theatre tonight — @JohnDagleish as Ray Davies was astonishing.

Will I like it?

If you’ve ever stood at the front of a gig and felt exhilarated, danced until your feet hurt or picked up a guitar and wished you were in a band, then yes, you will indeed like this. If you are a fan of The Kinks – and you may not even realise you are until the show reminds you just how many great songs they wrote – then you’ll likely upgrade that like to full-blown love.

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