Meet Team B: Ryan O’Donnell

Ryan O’Donnell in Sunny Afternoon
Photo credit: Kevin Cummins

Guest writer: @Helzbels

Team B Roulette is my personal term for the occasions on which the Sunny Afternoon stage is graced by a seemingly random selection of the show’s enormously talented and versatile understudies. Very occasionally, a freak combination of cast holidays and illness can mean that the understudies get to perform in roles which they haven’t played for quite some time. One such occasion was in mid-December last year, when Ryan O’Donnell (Alternate Ray Davies/Understudy Dave Davies) was called upon to play the part of Dave at short notice.

Ryan hadn’t had the chance to play Dave since the summer and, more importantly, we Afternooners hadn’t seen his Dave for months! Ryan’s Dave is definitely an angry teenager, without being childish – he’s focused on his music. The week beginning 14 December 2015 saw Ryan playing Dave on the Monday, Oliver Hoare playing Dave on the Tuesday and Robbie White playing Dave on the Wednesday with Ryan playing his big brother, Ray. As I like to say, you can never have too many Daves!

That week was definitely one of my favourites at Sunny Afternoon, with Ryan playing Dave and Ray on consecutive days, giving outstanding performances in both roles. I’d been intrigued to see what Ryan would be like as a performer since his name first appeared in the show’s programme last spring as understudy for both Ray and Dave. Lillie Flynn (Rasa in the original cast) had informed us that Ryan was “amazing” – both she and George Maguire (Dave in the original cast) had appeared in a touring production of Quadrophenia with Ryan in 2009. Ryan also has a rather eclectic CV, having been both a member of The Royal Shakespeare Company and part of the band Jethro Tull, touring with the latter for four years. I can’t think of any other actors who’ve combined both Shakespeare and prog rock, unless I might’ve missed Peter O’Toole going on tour with Blodwyn Pig.

Ryan grew on me very quickly, not least because of his incredible singing voice – I’d happily listen to him sing Set Me Free, I’m Not Like Everybody Else and Sitting In My Hotel (which isn’t even one of my favourite Kinks songs) all day. His Ray is quite serious and driven yet Ryan still manages to bring a light touch to the frequent comedic moments in the production. I’m delighted that Ryan is now Alternate Ray, rather than ‘just’ understudy, as it means he gets to perform the part regularly and he’s had the chance to develop the role – plus I get to see him more often. As we’re in Team B appreciation week I can make it public that my personal ambition, as far as Team B are concerned, is to see Ryan play both Ray and Dave simultaneously – with Robbie White as Rasa. You can easily manage that, lads, multi-talented supermen that you are – go, Team B!

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