Musical explores The Kinks’ role in pop music history

Sunny Afternoon. Picture by Kevin Cummins
Sunny Afternoon. Picture by Kevin Cummins

Theatre Royal Brighton’s Christmas treat will be a journey through the early life of Ray Davies and the rise to stardom of The Kinks.

The multi award winning hit West End musical Sunny Afternoon will be at the venue from December 13-31.

The Kinks exploded onto the ’60s music scene with a raw energetic new sound that rocked a nation. But how did that happen, where exactly did they come from and what happened next?

All the answers are in the show.

Set against the backdrop of a Britain caught mid swing between the conservative 50s and riotous 60s, Sunny Afternoon explores the euphoric highs and agonising lows of one of Britain’s most iconic bands and the irresistible music that influenced generations.

Katherine Hare, associate director, is delighted at the response the show continues to get: “You get Kinks stalwarts coming along, knowing all the words, and you get people coming along, just knowing the standards, and then they hear the other songs and they are thinking ‘I didn’t realise that was by The Kinks!’”

The point is that The Kinks were a hugely-important part of popular music history: “They had a very unique sound. They created that sound. We have got the moment in the show where they trash the amp in their bedroom with a razor and so create that raw, energetic sound. It really spoke to generations of people that wanted something a little bit less clean, a little bit less saccharine.”

Crucial too were Ray Davies’ lyrics: “Ray wrote from his own personal experiences which is why it works in the theatre setting. You are not having to shoehorn songs into a story because the story is already there. Ray Davies wrote the story of his life through those songs.”

But through those songs, he also captured an atmosphere, just what it was like to be in London at that time.

“The lyrics are absolutely beautiful, but since they came out of Ray’s brain, they are not always the easiest lyrics to learn. Like Waterloo Sunset. It is just tiny subtle changes that he puts into the verses.

“I have spent quite a lot of time with Ray. He is a very funny man. He is very dry, very witty. His observations on human nature are brilliant. I have not been involved right from the moment when they put the show into Hampstead, but Ray was very present, very aware. He was there for the casting process. He was very actively involved.”

In fact, Katherine can’t work out whether it is stranger for Ray or for the cast: “Imagine you are standing there playing Ray Davies and you have got Ray Davies in front of you, but you are also playing very much a theatrical version of him.

“I came on board six months into the West End run, in March 2015. I cast the second lot of West End cast, and I cast all of this tour along with our casting director. The man who is playing Ray is someone I brought into the show.

“This is the most complicated show to cast I have ever been involved with because you need them to able to play their instruments as well, which makes it fiendishly difficult. You have got 15 performing cast members, and you have got eight understudies. And one guy understudies all four of The Kinks – that’s all four parts and all of their instruments he has to know. And you also have got to remember you are casting for real people. They have got to look roughly the right age and Ray has got to look a bit older than his brother Dave, and there is no time for them to learn their instruments. They have got to get it right straightaway.”

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