(Dominic Cavendish’s article appeared in the telegraph, 10/31.)
Rightly raved about at Hampstead Theatre in May, and cannily whisked into the West End where it could run forever and a day, the Kinks’ musical Sunny Afternoon is a blazing triumph – as guaranteed to transport you to a state of paradisaical bliss as the fabled sight of a Waterloo sunset.
It’s more than just a deft recap – courtesy of playwright Joe Penhall – of how brothers Ray and Dave Davies, ordinary lads from Muswell Hill, came to form one of the defining bands of the Sixties. And it does more than chart the Kinks’ early highs and lows using the best of their back-catalogue.
Combining the adrenalin rush of a concert with fleet-footed theatricality, it conjures the whole youthful, rebellious spirit of the decade itself – and its many contradictions. At the start, it’s clear that a blow is being struck against the established order, as the cockney lads unleash the primal sound of rock’n’roll into a well-heeled soirée like a wrecking-ball. The toffs must learn to dance to a different beat and “oiks” can become the new aristocrats. But to get ahead, the band must sign exploitative contracts with snooty money-men who still consider themselves their betters. If you’re idealistic, poetic, socialist to boot, how do you square that with the need to fight for every cent? Tensions gather to a piercing pitch.