Sunny Afternoon at the Harold Pinter
“They seek him here, they seek him there, in Regent Street, and Leicester Square”; as a Londoner, sat in the West End, you’re sure to feel warmth glowing in your chest when listening to songs about the city. Never more so than during a rendition of Waterloo Sunset in the second half of The Kinks’ biographical show, Sunny Afternoon.
There’s a surplus of pop album-based musicals at the moment, where a chosen band’s back catalogue is shoe-horned into a contrived story. Sunny Afternoon differs in that it is the true, chronological story of The Kinks (albeit told from frontman Ray Davies’ perspective), so the songs slip in naturally. This doesn’t mean it entirely escapes the occasional bit of cheese and contrived song choices that go with the territory, but on the whole it flows cohesively.
The biggest The Kinks tracks are all showcased here, making it impossible not to bounce in your seat. The most famous songs like You Really Got Me are approached as new compositions, which begin as riffs and are pieced together by the band, culminating in a glorious full performance.
The wistful Days is used as a goodbye between the band and their original managers. A capella and harmonised, it is a pensive and touching number marked out for its easing of pace. The eponymous hit Sunny Afternoon begins as a lament about the taxman, leading on from the band’s dispute with their managers over money, but transforms into a celebration of England’s 1966 World Cup victory. A soaring highlight of the production, euphoria and nostalgia reign amid falling confetti, scarf waving and cheers.
This nostalgia is allowed to remain as the show ends on a high, with the band still together, Ray and Dave on good terms and Ray still married to wife Rasa. There’s a poignancy born from our benefit of hindsight; we know all of these things have since come to an end, and yet Sunny Afternoon allows us to bathe in all the youth and optimism of The Kinks’ fledgling rock star days. This hindsight also feeds the comedy references in the show, such as Ray being chastised with “you wouldn’t catch John Lennon spending all day in bed.”
Rousing performances and a capable cast do justice to some of the most memorable rock songs to come out of London. Prepare to be delighted and choked up in equal measure.
Photos: Kevin Cummins
Sunny Afternoon is on at Harold Pinter Theatre from 28th October 2014 until 23rd May 2015, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch the trailer for Sunny Afternoon here: