A Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy

Just over 24 hours ago I emerged from the Harold Pinter Theatre following my 10th trip to see Sunny Afternoon… And to celebrate, I’m going to try once again to persuade you to go yourselves.


Ten reasons why Sunny Afternoon is the best show on the West End!

1. The songs

Kind of an obvious one, but the 28 (yes, 28!) different songs that feature in the show are just fantastic. There are the obvious crowd pleasers (You Really Got Me, All Day and All of the Night, Lola, Waterloo Sunset, Sunny Afternoon) as well as other well-known tracks (Dedicated Follower of Fashion, A Well Respected Man) and plenty for newly inducted fans to get their teeth into (This Time Tomorrow, I’m Not Like Everybody Else, Till the End of the Day, etc.). Before my first visit I thought I knew a lot of Kinks songs, but I really didn’t! That has changed now, I assure you.

And they all just fit so naturally into the story; it really is like Ray Davies was preparing for this moment from the start of his career. (The cast have said this in some interviews I’ve seen – the moment I find an appropriate link I will add it in!) – appropriate link now found (updated 01/03/15)…

I just wish that Autumn Almanac had been included! I still remember the first time I ever heard this wonderful song: we were doing projects on autumn in Year 5, and could bring in related items for a sort of ‘show and tell’ in class one day. My dad played me the song and I loved it (even at the age of 9!), so took that in. Not sure the rest of the class were particularly bothered, but I was pretty chuffed!

“Don’t try to talk to them: most of them are Cockneys!”

George Maguire, Ned Derrington, Dominic Tighe, Tam Williams and Adam Sopp in Sunny Afternoon. Photograph by Kevin Cummins.
George Maguire, Ned Derrington, Dominic Tighe, Tam Williams and Adam Sopp in Sunny Afternoon
Photo credit: Kevin Cummins

2. John Dagleish (as Ray Davies)

Where do we start? I spoke a bit about John’s performance in my previous post but there’s plenty more I could add… His facial expressions are brilliant (particularly thinking about Ray in the dentist’s chair!), Ray’s emotion & pain really come through in his singing, and he does a fantastic job at getting even the most languid audience members joining in! He may not look exactly like Ray Davies, but that doesn’t stop you believing that he is.

InstagramCapture_e2121a57-be3a-4a58-bad2-6778d3a02371_jpg“And England will win the World Cup Final!!”

3. The combination of comedic & emotional scenes

For me, the perfect show has the ability to make you laugh one moment and then cry the next. Obviously for some people this wouldn’t be ideal – but I assure you that it is a strangely nice feeling! A bit of emotional exercise! And you don’t leave feeling anything less than euphoric.

WP_20141115_009“I’m just so frightened all the time.”

4. George Maguire (as Dave Davies)

Again, I’ve written about George’s performance before – but it needs to be talked about again! (It’s not just me talking about him either – see number 10 in this Guardian article.) It amazes me every time how he has the energy to get through 8 shows in a week! When he’s not throwing himself around the set, or playing a characteristically manic guitar solo, there are some very poignant moments for Dave. His duet with Ray (A Long Way From Home) is a real highlight, following on from the beautiful a capella version of Days (you can hear it here at around 1:20:49).

WP_20141122_001“Keith Moon just bought a Bentley and drove it into his new swimming pool. What have you done lately?!”

5. The design

From the costumes to the set – and the tables in the stalls. I love the set: the whole of the backing is covered in speakers, with minimal adjustments throughout (an occasional chandelier, American flags, a London Underground sign). For me this is a pretty clever move, as we (the audience – I’m not the Queen) then focus on the performances rather than the background.

And the costumes. I’m mainly thinking about the wonderful 60s dresses for the girls and Dave’s individual taste, to be honest! Although the green stage suits (that, quite rightly, everyone isn’t wearing now!) and the red hunting jackets are pretty marvellous too.

WP_20141122_004“Trust me boys: with your looks, you need a gimmick!”

6. Adam Sopp (as Mick Avory)

Probably my favourite Mick moment in the show is his impressive drum solo in the second half – one time I was in, a drumstick went flying out of Adam’s hand halfway through but he still managed to grab a replacement and carry on without missing a beat! The show does focus more on the Davies brothers (perhaps understandably), but that doesn’t mean the others are left out. Adam plays Mick with tremendous dry humour, only really becoming riled by Dave’s antics – coming to a spectacular end at the Cardiff gig!

WP_20141122_003“I’ll have to go back to selling paraffin…”

7. The audience involvement

This is one of my favourite things! There is a ‘catwalk’ area coming off the main stage, plus the actors regularly pop in & out via the stalls. So if you’re sat either in the stalls or the dress circle you do feel really involved the whole time – less so further up, but you’re not left out!

The mini Kinks set at the very end is the best chance for the whole theatre to get involved. Stand up, have a bit of a dance, sing along (I take full advantage of this – my singing voice is not so good, so this is my only chance to sing without being heard!)… I only wish there was a chance for more songs!

“What a buzz!”

John Dagleish, George Maguire, Adam Sopp and Ned Derrington in Sunny Afternoon. Photograph by Kevin Cummins.
John Dagleish, George Maguire, Adam Sopp and Ned Derrington in Sunny Afternoon
Photo credit: Kevin Cummins

8. Ned Derrington (as Pete Quaife)

We’ve got the Front Man, the Brash One, the Deadpan One – the final piece of the puzzle is the Quiet One. There are some excellent Pete moments (I’ve mentioned one before – it never fails to make me laugh hysterically!), but the most heart-wrenching one has to be his emotional exit through ‘A Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy’. Ned captures Pete’s fragility utterly, especially in the very last line of the song when he makes his final decision.

WP_20141204_005“It’s about a vision!”

9. It celebrates London

For the past couple of years I’ve felt like I should be living in London – and now I am, I do feel This Is Where I Belong (sorry!). There are moments throughout the show that celebrate the capital (Denmark Street, for one), but none more so than Waterloo Sunset. I’d not properly taken the lyrics in before, but I suppose they wouldn’t have had the same meaning to me that they do now anyway. It always makes me emotional, but last night I was properly crying: “But I don’t need no friends; as long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset I am in paradise…”

WP_20141203_003“We’re working class socialists from Muswell Hill!”

10. Award nominations don’t lie!

The show itself was nominated for Best Musical and John Dagleish got a nod in the Emerging Talent Award at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards last month – sadly they both lost out (to The Scottsboro Boys and Laura Jane Matthewson, respectively).

But now it’s time for the WhatsOnStage Awards. The public has had their say, and there are a couple more nominations to add to the list!

You heard them: get voting!


8 thoughts on “A Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy

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