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“Sunshine on Leith”, King’s Theatre Glasgow

Published by: Cameron Lowe on 20th Jun 2018 | View all blogs by Cameron Lowe

 

Eleven years on from the first awe-inspiring tour by Dundee Rep. and with a movie release in the space between, Sunshine on Leith takes to the stage once again with a brand new production from West Yorkshire Playhouse.

 

With side-splitting Scottish humour married with true to life family drama and down to earth realism, “Sunshine on Leith” ticks every possible box for me.  I found myself bouncing from uncontrollable laughter to sadness and back again in a heartbeat!  From the familiar upbeat strains of “I’m on My Way” I was hooked again, finding myself grinning from ear to ear as I enjoyed this triumphant intelligent musical comedy drama.

 

The story follows Ally and Davy as they return from an army tour of duty and they set about picking up the pieces of their lives.  Ally is the long term boyfriend of Davy’s sister, Liz.  Liz introduces her brother to her nursing colleague, Yvonne, who is funny, bright, beautiful … but English!  Both couples are welcomed under the roof of mum and dad (Jean and Rab) who celebrate 30 years of marriage.

 

Part of the genius of this show is the way that the 3 separate love stories are interwoven with a huge back catalogue of hit songs from The Proclaimers.  The songs are not a simple headline grabbing add-on.  They each earn their place and advance the story so seamlessly that it is difficult to comprehend that they were not written for this purpose.  Throw the ‘R’ Away” celebrates the Scottish accent as the boys take a job in a call centre, “What Do You Do?” asks how Nurses should cope with the decline of the NHS, “Let’s Get Married” is an hilarious marriage proposal spoof situated in a Hibs supporters’ bar, “Sunshine on Leith” is a tear jerking lament as a family member lies in a hospital bed … the list goes on and on.  The drama is woven through with side splitting Scottish patter and down to earth characters that will speak any audience’s language.  Playwright and TV writer, Stephen Greenhorn, turned alchemist with this theatre gold.

 

This new production brings several updates to this much beloved show.  Some work well    and some, not so much.  I was delighted to see that time no longer stood still for the Henshaw family as the show was brought up to date with references to Brexit, The Kardashians and Nicola Sturgeon among others.  These bring fresh laughs and introduce the show to a new generation of fans.  The story took some tweaks from the 2013 movie; bringing in Rab’s estranged daughter (Nikki Patel) and adding extra pressure on his 30 year marriage; which unravels in a great crescendo at the end of Act 1.  Sadly, this production also handed over more of the second act’s tear-jerker songs to the chorus.  While well delivered vocally with beautiful new harmonies, this only served to detract from the hard hitting drama which was previously in very stark contrast to the uplifting first act.

 

The cast consisted of incredibly talented performers who acted, sang, danced and played instruments giving each scene a family vibe – like an old new year party singalong. Accents tended to be around 50 miles west of where they should be but that was quickly forgiven by the Glaswegian audience.  Performances were superb throughout with outstanding contributions from principals Phil McKee as Rab, Hilary Maclean as Jean, Neshla Caplan as Liz, Jocasta Almgill as Yvonne and Paul-James Corrigan and Steven Miller as Ally and Davy.

 

This is a great musical.  Get along to see it as soon as you can - Saturday night is sold out in Glasgow.  The tour makes its final stop in Inverness.

 

King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Tues 19 – Sat 23 June

Evenings at 7.30 p.m. (Saturday evening sold out)

Wed and Sat matinees at 2.30 p.m.

Box Office: 0844 871 7648 (bkg. fee) www.atgtickets.com

Tickets: £23 - £60

 

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