In their teens two brothers, Ray and Dave Davies, rallied together two of their childhood friends Pete Quaife and Mike Avroy to form a band. Known then as The Ravens, these four young musicians from Muswell Hill went on to be better known as the 1960s British rock ‘n’ roll group The Kinks. Sunny Afternoon is a jukebox musical that charts The Kinks’ turbulent rise to fame, battles over royalties, familial tensions and their struggle to break America. Following an extremely successful run at the Hampstead Theatre, Sunny Afternoon has just transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre where audiences continue to bop along to the band’s iconic tunes such as ‘You Really Got Me’, ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’, ‘Lola’ and, of course, ‘Sunny Afternoon’.
Having music, lyrics and the original story of Sunny Afternoon penned by Ray Davies himself instantly establishes a level of credibility to the work. This authenticity is echoed by the fact that the reimagined version of The Kinks – Ray (John Dagleish), Pete (Ned Derrington), Dave (George Maguire) and Mick (Adam Sopp) – all play their own instruments live on stage and, much like their real-life counterparts, are all talented and accomplished musicians.
Interwoven between The Kinks’ back catalogue of classics, this biographical show shines a light on the band’s frontman and songwriter Ray, who we learn was given his first guitar and passion for music by his late sister Rene who passed away suddenly on his thirteenth birthday. Naive to just how ruthless and money hungry the music industry can be, the group are soon saddled with four hapless managers, each demanding a sizeable cut of their earnings. By the time they make it to America, they are met with another barrage of people queueing up to exploit them financially. Drowning in a sea of royalties and unpaid dues, coupled with the band’s rebellious streak, The Kinks become the first group to be banned from America. As they attempt to deal with their rocky rise to stardom, tensions soon begin to form within the band.
Sunny Afternoon is not without its faults. I found Maguire’s depiction of ‘Dave the Rave’ a tad overbearing – yes, he is playing the youngest and most reckless member of band, but the slapstick nature of his portrayal in my opinion could be toned down a little. In an attempt to make a more linear narrative, the team have also shoehorned in a few songs that aren’t by The Kinks, which unfortunately fell flat alongside such well-loved hits.
That said, Sunny Afternoon is a triumphant celebration of The Kinks’ music. The final megamix has the audience up on their feet dancing, proving that many ‘Waterloo Sunsets’ after the songs were first written they still “really got me going”, which is surely the sign of an entertaining night out.
Sunny Afternoon is playing at the Harold Pinter Theatre until May 2015. For tickets and more information visit the ATG Tickets website.