Sunny Afternoon

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The cast of Sunny Afternoon, on stage

10 things we were talking about after seeing Sunny Afternoon – the Kinks Musical

1. Ray Davies was only just 22 when he had his last No 1.

When England won the World Cup - July 30 1966 - Sunny Afternoon by the Kinks was No 1 in the charts. It was the band's third and final British No 1. Ray Davies, their songwriter and singer, had turned 22 the week before. Nearly 50 years on, Davies is still hailed as a kind of national treasure. ( Waterloo Sunset and Lola, two of the songs that form the show's terrific finale, came later, but only made No 2.)

2. Kinks songs really lend themselves well to a stage musical.

Ray Davies knows that: though this is the first big West End show featuring his songs, he's flirted with (and embraced) musical theatre regularly over the years. Because his writing is full of stories and characters and reflections and details, they fit quite naturally into a narrative. One of the highlights here is when the homesick Davies' lament for life on the road 'Sitting in My Hotel' is followed by his wife's wistful version of 'I Go To Sleep'. 'Days' is re-imagined in barbershop quartet form. Which sort of works.

3. This is the story of the early Kinks, rather than some We Will Rock You-style fantasy based on their songs.

At the show's heart is the relationship between two very different working-class brothers and the effect fame has upon them. It's not a big story. But it's got an emotional depth and it's something to hang the magnificent songs on.

4. The Davies brothers are/were chalk and cheese.

Sunny Afternoon has Dave Davies - younger brother, guitarist, tearaway - portrayed as a semi-wild geezer-oik. Dave the Rave. Ray Davies - big brother, songwriter - is slightly detached, a bedroom dreamer, maybe even a bit of a mummy's boy. John Dalgleish (who, to be fair, looks nothing like Davies), plays him as a little frail and distant, even slighty meek. Is that a true reflection? Ray Davies himself wrote the story, with playwright Joe Penhall. So was he really a frail mummy's boy or does he - for reasons unexplained - just want us to think he was?

5. The haunting backing singing on Waterloo Sunset - Davies' poignant hymn to London's Friday night buzz - is by Davies' first wife, Rasa.

We'd heard the song 1000 times and never knew. Not many people did: Rasa, a student who Davies met at a gig in Bradford in 1964, sang, uncredited, on many of the band's mid-60s records. Seeing the couple's story played out on stage, and knowing her creative contribution, makes that great record sound even more poignant and wistful.

6. It must have been frustrating to be in the Kinks and not be Ray Davies.

The Kinks hit the charts in 1964 in the same burst of loud, RnB-fired energy as the Stones, a burst of testosterone and energy and distorted guitars. But, by this show's account - it's only Dave who really enjoys the rock'n'roll lifestyle. Ray, The Kinks' (self-appointed) leader's interests soon turn to some kind of wistful fusion of music hall and observational drama, often celebrating and dissecting the nature of Englishness: brilliant songwriting but far from the thrusting rock template of their earlier records.

7. Kids from stage school are not as cool as kids that form bands.

This is a great show and the cast is uniformly excellent - but without 100 per cent shaking off the idea that we are in Musical Land, where everything, even the emotions and gestures of the understated Davies, has to be a little bit overplayed. Maybe that's just how musical theatre has to be, even in kitchen-sink territory.

8. The Kinks' famous songs are just the tip of the iceberg.

This show will surprise many with the sprinkling of gems not even to be found on any Kinks Greatest Hits album. Try the fabulous Sitting in My Hotel, with its reflections on the emptiness of fame for one. Or This Time Tomorrow, for another.

9. Even the groups themselves did not imagine pop music could be a career.

At one point in Sunny Afternoon, Kinks bassist Pete Quaife suggests he might leave the band to get back to being a graphic artist. As Ringo Starr said of the Beatles: 'We didn't think it would last. 'Even Paul thought, "Well, I'll probably end up as a writer." So did John. George was going to have a garage.'

Then, the prospect of pop being a job for life was unthinkable. But 50 years on, Davies and McCartney (and many others) are still treading the boards, well into their 70s.

10. How big a band were the Kinks?

Even their biggest supporter might only place the Kinks as the third or fourth biggest band of the Sixties. But Sunny Afternoon really works as a show and maybe, on the back of terrific reviews and word-of-mouth, it will run and run. After all, Jersey Boys, the story of the Four Seasons, has been on Broadway since 2005 and in the West End since 2009. Ultimately, Sunny Afternoon is about celebrating the halcyon days of Swinging London: and if that's not a strong basis for a long-running hit in the West End of London... what is?

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