“Stick that on the poster!”

End of Sunny

Sunny Afternoon is now coming to its final end. And you know what? At this point I’m actually quite glad. Not in a vindictive “I can’t have it so no one can” kind of way (before anyone decides to misquote me), but because it’s been going in one venue or other for just over three years now so it feels like a good time for it to be rested. The regular cast changes that this show thrives on would mean that a return to the West End in the immediate future would either end up retaining the tour cast (or a combination of previous actors), or have to find an entirely new company – and risk diluting the quality of the show if there aren’t enough people to foot the bill right now.

It’s mostly the band I’m thinking of, as they’re the centrepiece of the whole show. You need pretty specific casting for Ray and Dave, actors playing Mick and Pete need great musicianship as well as the ability to support (and enhance) the Davies actors’ performances – and all four need to gel together as a more-than-competent live band.

Not that I’m intimately acquainted with the state of actor-musician stock at the moment, but things do tend to come in threes.

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

And I am actually over it now. I don’t say that in a judgmental way, or to mock anyone who hasn’t had to do it yet, but simply to state a fact. I had nearly two years to the day of the show in the West End, with a bonus trip to see the tour in Dartford a few weeks later. In an ideal world, I would obviously have followed the tour around the country a fair bit (despite there being quite a few iffy places on the list – Milton Keynes, anyone?), but there was just no way it could happen. For the first five months of the tour I was only working part-time, after being out of work for a few weeks, so whatever money I had needed to be prioritised on making the most of the West End cast that I loved (as well as Adam’s first post-Sunny job). And then, once I moved to a full-time job in January, I had to make sure I saved up a bit for my New York trip that I’d been planning since August.

I absolutely couldn’t justify the transport & accommodation costs, let alone ATG’s rip-off ticket prices (and insane ticket & transaction fees) for non-members. No reliable day seats in regional theatres, and there’s no way I’d trek up to somewhere like Aberdeen on the off-chance their box office staff were feeling generous that day…

But it’s fine. I actually couldn’t imagine, personally, sticking with something like that on a regular basis for more than two years – especially as I’m still not sure how things escalated the way they did. As much as the process of change is difficult and unwelcome at times, I also like variety!

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The touring cast of Sunny Afternoon
Photo credit: Kevin Cummins

As it happened, my one tour show had a full cast so that seemed like a good way to round things off. Obviously I’d have no problem watching the understudies; the only thing I do wish I’d been able to return for was a Marcelo Dave, as I heard nothing but rave reviews about him! Aside from that, I had a brilliant afternoon watching the new lot – my standouts had to be Joe Richardson as Wace, Garmon Rhys as Pete, and former Team B member Rob Took as Mr Davies/Klein.

I had a really fantastic time, almost surprising myself at just how much I enjoyed it (when I’d only just had to go through it closing at the Pinter). The two West End casts are still obviously my favourites, through attachment as much as anything else – each of the three casts had particular strengths, I don’t think you could objectively state one is definitively better than the other. And I absolutely wouldn’t try!

(l-r) Danny Horn, Oliver Hoare, Damien Walsh, Tom Whitelock in Sunny Afternoon. Credit - Kevin Cummins.jpg
Danny Horn, Oliver Hoare, Damien Walsh and Tom Whitelock in Sunny Afternoon
Photo credit: Kevin Cummins

It’s not all been rosy; it felt like we were being dragged back to the playground by some people with a bit of ‘I was here first’ syndrome (and some truly bizarre attempted appropriation of actual human cast members), as well as a lot of ardent Kinks fans who behaved very weirdly towards our little group. Not to mention attention-seeking bullshitters… All that’s needed here is a little grown-up perspective: we’re not all going to be best friends just because we love the same show, but seeing as we do love the same show what’s the problem with sharing and enjoying it without being hateful?

I’m afraid that had to be said, but despite all that the good easily outweighs the bad.

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Photo credit: Greg Hardcastle/Vicki Manser/Sunny Afternoon official Instagram

For starters, I now have a solid little group of friends (from the times of both original and second West End casts) who I now regularly go and see other things with – or, in the case of Helen in particular, spend hours in a pub with! And, speaking of alcohol, if it wasn’t for Sandie I may not have been introduced to the delights of gin, which seems genuinely shocking to me. Ksenia’s encyclopaedic knowledge of mostly The Kinks (but other things besides) is a boon to anyone with any sense – and of course my two blogging partners in crime, Jess & Sarah!

And of course there’s the two groups of fantastic actors that I can continue to follow as they work on new projects. The great thing is that I’ve loved pretty much everything I’ve seen them in (you know the tiny exceptions) – so I get to see them, and watch a range of different things into the bargain. I bizarrely quite enjoy skimming through every press release I get sent with a casting announcement, and ever more frequently I’m rewarded! Of course I can’t get to absolutely everything everyone does, but I think I’m doing a pretty good job of it so far; it’s been a fun couple of years.

100th pic
With a hot & sweaty cast after my 100th show

So, for the moment, I’m content with how things are. I do believe that going through this process of attachment and (basically) mourning has helped me grow as a person – I certainly feel like I have a more mature outlook on things having come out the other side. I also only started this theatre blogging business when I posted about the show back in November 2014, so without it who knows what I’d be doing now? My life may not revolve around Sunny Afternoon anymore, but I’ll always be grateful for the memories, and the opportunities it’s opened up for me.

Until the next time…

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