LONDON 2012 is remembered fondly by many, but probably not for a 60s icon singing one of his signature tunes at the closing ceremony. Despite having to compete with endless sporting heroics, Ray Davies’s stately rendition of ’Waterloo Sunset’ at the capital’s farewell to the world was the event’s proudest cultural statement. It reminded those home and abroad, as if they needed it, that Davies crafted some of rock and roll’s most enduring songs.
In his musical Sunny Afternoon, Davies packages The Kinks’ greatest songs in an often moving, always euphoric show, laced with the sort of biting social commentary defining The Kinks’ most beloved material.
The story, written by Davies, is like the warmest, humblest sitcom, brimming with fraternal camaraderie with which audiences across the country will identify. We follow the band through the glory years of the 60s, from struggle to success and everything in between.
There is a memorable, thinly veiled jab at the commercial construct of ’Cool Britannia’, and by implication its 90s pastiche ’Britpop’, both of which hid the bleak reality of working-class struggles. The music industry gets a kicking too - loveable schemers Grenville (Tomm Coles) and Robert (Joseph Richardson) are the band’s managers, clueless about music who see the four ’working-class oiks’ as a marketing opportunity rather than a creative outlet. They do their best to make the boys sound as inoffensive as possible, but make amends with a capella version of ’Days’ which reaffirms why music is the greatest emotional force on earth.
Dave Davies, played by the excellent Mark Newnham, is Ray’s talented but tempestuous brother and steals the show with his crude remarks and unbridled hedonism. His relationship with Ray, played by the impressive Ryan O’Donnell, is fraught with conflict and envy, but beneath the brotherly scuffles exists mutual love and respect. Newnham and O’Donnell deserve credit for interpreting the positive tension in the Davies relationship so humanely.
The Kinks laboured on in one form or another until 1993, slowly sinking into fatal irrelevance. However, for seven or eight years, they were the best band on the planet. With Sunny Afternoon, Ray Davies wants fans old and new to remember the band for the happiness they instilled in millions before fading away, as all bands do. It was a pleasure to see people bellowing enthusiastically to hit after hit, waves of nostalgia and happiness engulfing them for a few brief hours. Whether you are someone who wants to sing-along to some of the finest songs in the English language from ’You Still Want Me to ’Dead End Street’, or someone who wants to know more about the people behind the music, you will find something to love in this spirit-nourishing performance.
For further information and tickets to see Sunny Afternoon, which is now on at Cliffs Pavilion until Saturday, September 24, call the box office on 01702 351135 or visit southendtheatres.org.uk.