What can I say? Simply put, Sunny Afternoon took my breath away.
Bearing in mind, that this was my second time seeing the show, so I was weary of whether or not I would feel as enthusiastic about it as I did the first go round, but I needn’t have worried at all.
The show oozed the same beautiful charisma with every word spoken, and the same overwhelming power from every song sung. Credit for this must go to the effortless script-writing talents of Joe Penhall and the musical genius of Ray Davies. This is the first musical I’ve ever seen where every laugh I let out was a whole-heartedly genuine one, and the tears just as real. It is a true testament to both the writing and to the show itself that, even though I was aware of what was coming up next, my reactions were just the same.
Edward Hall’s direction gave the show a wonderful sense of inclusivity, not just because of the content, and the context in which it was being said, but the magnificent feeling of camaraderie brought about through the staging of it all. Sitting in Row G, right at the end of the stage’s extended runway, I felt so up close to all of the actors; that at some points I was worried one would end up falling in my lap!
The actors themselves really make the show what it is. Their talent, collectively and individually, is immense indeed and a testament to the power of true story telling. John Dagleish as Ray Davies just works. He brings vulnerability to the role of this quiet genius; yet takes his moments to make heart-wrenchingly poignant points about both music and life. My highlight being his speech leading up to Waterloo Sunset, the authenticity with which it is delivered both engages me and touches my heart. Both Adam Sopp (Mick Avory) and Ned Derrington (Pete Quaife) gave reliably stunning performances because, again, they just fit their respected characters perfectly. Adam embodies all the sarcasm, wit and anger of a frustrated drummer and Ned takes on all those feelings of claustrophobia and anxiety suffered by a bassist who feels trapped within his own life.
Understudy, Robbie White, took to the stage as Dave “The Rave” Davies and gave a faultless performance indeed. From the minute he stepped out, he brought a delightful madness to the man; swinging from chandeliers, strutting confidently in a dress and smashing up sets- it was a mesmerising performance to watch. He brought a raw energy to the role, which matched that of George Maguire, but was perfectly unique in its own right. He was engaging to watch, took to the spotlight confidently when he needed to, but showed all the frailties of an insecure young man consumed by his rock and roll lifestyle.
Every person up on that stage gave everything they had to their performance and left nothing to be desired for. Even when certain members of the audience gave up their respectfulness towards the cast, not an ounce of professionalism was spilled. My admiration for everyone up on that stage sky-rocketed through the roof and for us members of the audience who were capable of realising that we were in a theatre, and not some low-rent pub, were rewarded with the continuing skill that the actors displayed.
I appreciated every single detail of the show, from the small looks and smiles out into the crowd to being able to listen to some of my favourite songs played with such conviction and meaning. I was made to feel happy, not artificial happiness that may last for a moment or so, but true happiness that hits you right in your very core and makes you feel confident about who you are and the moment you’re in.
I would recommend Sunny Afternoon to anyone and everyone, if you’re a fan of music that sparks emotion in your very soul, spellbinding acting or are just generally up for a good time- this one’s for you.