Hannah Stuart-Leach heads back to the swinging 60s for the critically-acclaimed musical about rock legends, The Kinks.
Image - Ryan O'Donnell as Ray Davies in Sunny Afternoon. Credit - Kevin Cummins.
Having come of age in the 90s, my knowledge of 60s London is only second-hand - passed on through films and the kaleidoscopic memories of older friends and relatives. So I was looking forward to immersing myself in an era that’s always seemed so colourful and free to me.
The show follows four working class lads from Muswell Hill – back when Muswell Hill wasn’t all arts cinemas and artisan cheese shops – and their rise to fame during the capital’s heyday. From humble beginnings they soon find themselves at the heart of the British Invasion, playing alongside major stars like Gerry and the Pacemakers and Sonny & Cher.
Fans of the band won’t be disappointed by the set list – the show packs an impressive number of hits from Lola, which has everyone on their feet clapping, to Sunny Afternoon, which brings back the elation of the summer of 1966, when England won the World Cup and anything felt possible.
Not that this is a rose-tinted production. It was written by lead singer Ray Davies and doesn’t shy from the fraught relationships within the band, most famously with his brother Dave, or the private struggles with management, money and matrimony. Some of the funniest, most touching scenes are between Ray and his wife Rasa, played by singer-songwriter Lisa Wright, as they navigate family life away from the limelight.
Throughout the band’s famous power chord riffs rocked right through me, while the silk shirts, ruffled collars and bold print miniskirts brought 60s style to life. Whether we were waiting in line for a tube or the audience at Top of the Pops it felt like I was right there, experiencing an iconic moment in time.
The best thing about this musical for me though is how – through The Kink’s eyes – it celebrates what it means to feel British, for better or worse. From the band’s awkward encounters stateside to their wistful ode to the Thames, Waterloo Sunset, it presents an understated yet deep love for home.
Sunny Afternoon is at Bristol Hippodrome until 11 March 2017.