Hampstead comes up with a sunny summer surprise to offer an alternately tender and joyous jukebox show constructed out of Ray Davies’ greatest hits to chart a fully autobiographical tale of the early career of The Kinks, concentrated between 1964 (when they had their first hit) and 1966.
Amy Ross, Carly Anderson, George Maguire (Dave), Emily Goodenough and John Dagleish (Ray) in Sunny Afternoon by Ray Davies and Joe Penhall, Hampstead Theatre Photo: Tristram Kenton
It’s like a British version of Jersey Boys, by way of Muswell Hill instead of New Jersey. Though Joe Penhall’s script may not be as sharp or well-defined as that of Jersey Boys, it is generously full of heart and especially the soul that propelled The Kinks’ music. It charts a conventional tale of musical non-conformity as two brothers - Ray and Dave, (the latter of whom has a penchant for wearing dresses), angry drummer Mick and shy guitarist Pete variously fall out, and find themselves turned over by managers and blacklisted by the entertainment unions in the US.
The result is dramatically a bit rough, ready and ragged but it lends the evening a useful whiff of improvisation and spontaneity. Edward Hall’s production is designed by Miriam Buether to spill all over the auditorium, drawing the audience right in. By the finale, we are, of course, all on our feet - a not unusual trick in this type of show. But for once the enforced standing ovation feels justified for the efforts of a stunning cast of actor-musicians, led by the brooding presence of John Dagleish as Davies and the strangely charismatic George Maguire as his brother Dave.