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Sunny Afternoon at Milton Keynes Theatre

Published by: Alison Smith on 1st Sep 2016 | View all blogs by Alison Smith

 Reviewed by Alison Smith

Sunny Afternoon Poster

The 1960s was a time of counter-culture; the old social order was dying and the young were installing a new order with personal freedom in dress, drugs, sexuality (The Pill!), politics and music. And up there in the music revolution were The Kinks. In 1964 The Kinks released their first hard rock hit, ‘You Really Got Me’ and it climbed to number one in the UK charts.  By the end of the 60s The Kinks had had twelve Top 10 hits. 

The musical Sunny Afternoon, written by Joe Penhall with story, music and lyrics by Ray Davies, follows the stories of The Kinks, working class, North London lads, headed by Ray Davies with his brother Dave, drummer Mick Avory and bassist Peter Quaife. Theirs was not an easy journey – banned by American unions, exploited by middle-class managers, riven by brotherly quarrels – but the group survived, with some changes in the line-up, until 1996.

But it is The Kink’s music, not the journey to fame, which is exceptional. Ray Davies moved away from hard rock and began to write narrative songs, reflecting the London that he knew – Waterloo Sunset – and songs of social observation  - Dead End Street and Where have All the Good Times Gone - and character studies - Dedicated Follower of Fashion and A Well Respected Man. Ray Davies is an outsider, a commentator on society and best when communicating through his music and lyrics. 

In Sunny Afternoon, Ryan O’Donnell plays Ray Davies to perfection; dissimilar to Ray in looks he still manages to convey a feeling of Ray’s shyness and awkwardness, of always being a misplaced person. The role of Dave Davies, ‘Dave the Rave’, the insecure, crazy little brother, is taken by Mark Newnham with a suitable wildness. The band is completed with Andrew Gallo as Mick Avory (mind-blowing drum solo) and Garmon Rhys as Pete Quaife. Throughout the musical the four main actor-musicians play, sing and move with passion.  They are truly a talented quartet. They convey the rebelliousness of the 60s, but also their concern with the material issues of life. The money rich managers, upper class, patronising toffs are typified excellently by Richard Hurst and Tomm Coles. They are also extremely talented singers and actors and add a constant stream of humour. Mention must also be made of Lisa Wright as Rasa, Ray’s wife; a beautiful actor with an enchanting voice. 

The production is delightful and joyful; from the screaming fans to the banks of speakers, from the kinky fashion to the dancing style, the 60s are perfectly captured. There was no down moment in the musical; the audience’s attention was held from beginning to end, and what a rousing  end with the whole theatre on its feet moving to the music.

A really wonderful experience; Sunny Afternoon should not be missed. 


Sunny Afternoon is at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday 3rd September.

0844 871 7652

Booking fee applies.





1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 1 year ago
    Sounds wonderful, Alison. Thanks
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