Working on hospital radio I am familiar with The Kinks, but only with three of their biggest hits: You Really Got Me, All Day and All of the Night, and Sunny Afternoon. I didn’t know anything about them as a band, their back history as to how they reached fame. That was until I spent a very enjoyable few hours watching Sunny Afternoon at the Bristol Hippodrome.
I am a writer, and so am obsessed by stories. I love immersing myself in the lives of others, as a fly on the wall, seeing how they live and what makes them tick. So I jumped at the chance of watching Sunny Afternoon, which is the story of The Kink’s rise from life on a dead end street to living the rock star dream of fame, fortune and glory.
The show opened with the band, performing then as Ravens, before they had a record deal. Straight away, from that first song, their characters shone through, and their determination to succeed in what was a very competitive business. It was the early sixties, and bands such as the Beatles and the Beach Boys were dominating the charts. One member of the band, Dave Davies, stood out as a particularly interesting character. In this show he was played by Mark Newnham, who seemed to really enjoy portraying this cheeky character who had a real lust for life. He had many fun lines, and had the audience laughing at his antics, especially when he got drunk in a bar and started swinging from the chandelier.
In a stark comparison to him was his older brother, and the bands lead singer, Ray. He came across as a real thinker, and many times people referred to the fact that he thought out loud by singing. Ray was played by Ryan O’Donnell, who was fantastic. In particular he sent shivers down my spine when he sang Sitting in my Hotel. This was a poignant moment when Ray, who has everything he had ever wanted is talking to his wife on the phone about how homesick he is. He is in America with his band performing, but all he wants is to be home. He’s talking about how if his friends could see him, sitting in his hotel room feeling glum, they wouldn’t understand, as from the outside his life looks so exciting. But fame comes at a price, and he feels lonely, and under a lot of pressure to write hit songs and keep the band in the charts. Ryan did a fantastic job of portraying a vulnerable man, who is a very talented musician and songwriter, but who struggles to cope with the pressure of the music business.
The thing I really liked about this show was how talented the four actors playing the band members were. As well as being great singers, they were very talented musicians. The band line up included Garmon Rhys as Pete Quaife, and Andrew Gallo as Mick Avory. Whenever I see shows that are based on the stories of bands I always wonder how the band feel about the way they are portrayed and the actors who play them. In this instance I think the The Kinks would have been happy with this, and would have been impressed with the talent of the actors.
Sunny Afternoon was a real feel good show, but one that also made you think about the impact of show business on such young men. The actors got a well deserved standing ovation for the curtain call, which shows that I wasn’t alone in my enjoyment.