Review: Sunny Afternoon at the Royal & Derngate, Northampton

The cast of Sunny Afternoon

The cast of Sunny Afternoon

Whether you lived through the sixties and can’t remember it, because, well, it was the sixties or you are too young to remember it, the Kinks’ musical Sunny Afternoon is a great way to experience the decade in all its glory.

I fall into the ‘too young to remember it’ category but just a few minutes into the show I felt suitably transported into a different era. And it was just as fun, colourful and rebellious as I had imagined.

Sunny Afternoon at Northampton's Royal & Derngate

Sunny Afternoon at Northampton's Royal & Derngate

The opening gives us a true taste of the band’s unwillingness to conform with the established order as they unleash the raw sound of their rock and roll on a ballroom of upper class revellers.

However, the posh party-goers soon learn to embrace the new beat and dance along with the band’s tunes. Thus begins the many rises and falls of one of the decade’s most influential music acts.

Admittedly, I didn’t know much about the Kinks before I saw the show. While I was familiar with a couple of their hits such as You Really Got Me and Lola, I knew nothing about their origins or turbulent history.

In fact, turbulent may be a bit of an understatement. The relationship between the soulful, deep and moody Ray Davies and his wild, promiscuous younger Dave is at best, stormy, and at worst, toxic. However, it provided a lot of the emotional heart of the story and also many of the laughs.

Ryan O‘Donnell is ridiculously good as iconic rock star Ray and I defy anyone not to fall in love with him a little bit when he sings to the audience with his blue soulful eyes. He appears to capture all the emotions of the song – a mark of a truly good actor (and a truly good song)!

Mark Newnham was equally as excellent as party animal Dave Davies, as not only did he make you laugh with his crazy antics (swinging across a hotel ballroom on a chandelier while dressed in women’s lingerie to name just one) but he also made you feel sorry for this hedonistic but insecure young boy who had clearly gone way off the rails.

Andrew Gallow provided more comedy as the drummer Mick Avory and Garmon Rhys was spot on as the sensitive and shy Pete Quaife – who was never quite comfortable with their new found fame.

For the Kinks, the price of fame was very high - except when it came to money, as the show also reveals how the youngsters from Muswell Hill were exploited by snooty money-men left right and centre.

This is one of those shows that makes for an all round memorable night out. The songs (both hits and lesser known tracks) were performed expertly by the talented cast of and the atmosphere at the fantastic Derngate theatre was simply buzzing. Even a technical hitch which meant the show stopped for ten minutes while the audience wondered what was going on did not take away from the excitement. In fact, many people were convinced the hiccup was part of the show itself, so this is testament to how well the cast made us feel like we actually were at a live gig.

For me, Sunny Afternoon was not just the story of one of the UK’s greatest bands but it was an opportunity to experience the thrill of the all singing all-swinging sixties.

Sunny Afternoon can be seen at Northampton's Royal & Derngate until Saturday January 14. For tickets call the box office on 01604 624811 or visit www.royalandderngate.co.uk.