The Kinks to clash on Sunderland stage
Back in 1965 thousands of excited The Kinks fans packed into Cardiff's Capital Theatre to see their idols perform live.
Little did they realise that the night would end up with drummer Mick whacking guitarist Dave with a cymbal, rendering him unconscious, bringing the gig, which went on to enter the annals of rock history, to a crashing end.
I’m too young to have gone to the gig. But my mum was one of those young fans and she often told me about the night which, as a teenager, left her sat on the bus home in tears.
It’s the simmering tensions amongst the band which gave this four-piece a raw energy quite unlike anyone else of their generation.
Now a new musical, Sunny Afternoon, belts out the hits that propelled them to icon status, while also exploring the early life of frontman Ray Davies and the rocky rise to stardom of The Kinks - including that infamous night in Cardiff.
“What’s really interesting is how well they worked as musicians, but how terribly they worked together as human beings.
“The only time they worked is when they had instruments, but that’s why their songs have such a rich flavour,” says Mark Newnham who plays Dave Davies, eccentric lead guitarist and brother to frontman Ray.
“I’ve been reading Dave’s biography and it’s full of stories of them tearing hotel rooms apart, throwing TVs out of windows and drink-fuelled fights with celebrities.
“The rivalry between the brothers is well documented, but they were four very different people with different personalities.
“It’s fascinating to get into the depths of their relationships.”
Set against the back-drop of a Britain caught mid-swing between the conservative’50s and riotous ’60s, this production explores the euphoric highs and agonising lows of one of Britain’s most iconic bands.
As well as being actors, the four leads all have to be accomplished musicians in order to perform the show’s score, which includes You Really Got Me, Waterloo Sunset and Lola, tracks which paved the way for future sounds including Britpop.
Mark added: “It’s a revisit back to the ‘60s with a witty, clever script.
“It’s a jukebox musical because of the music, but it’s the next level up to your typical one, it’s got more passion and heart.
“Playing Waterloo Sunset is an absolute joy. If I could play only one song as a guitarist, it would be that. Plus playing Dave I get to wear great costumes because he was so flamboyant, he’s great fun to play.”
As well as impressing producers the lead actors had to impress the main man himself: Ray Davies who worked with Joe Penhall on the script for the musical.
“I didn’t know he was going to be there at my final audition and he had his back to me as I walked in,” said Andrew Gallo who plays drummer Mick Avory. “He’s been very supportive, he came to press night in Manchester and talks to us as if he’s known us for years.
“When you chat to him there’s no pretext. He bares his life and shows you his wrists. There’s a lot that went on in their lives and not everyone would allow those aspects of their life to be played out on stage, like he has.”
On the West End stage the musical racked up four awards at the 2015 Olivier Awards including Best New Musical and Outstanding Achievement in Music for Ray Davies.
This is the first UK tour of the show and Ryan O’Donnell who plays Ray, says it’s giving people a whole new insight into the story behind the familiar hits.
“There’s so much information in the script,” he said. “People come out of the theatre saying they didn’t know that about the band, and these are people who are die hard Kinks fans.
“They were very much about stepping away from the establishment and were pioneers of a certain sound.
“They were marketed as rough and ready, but their music also had this beautiful, poetic sound.
“Because of the music it does sometimes feel like a gig and the audience feed off that vibe. It’s a big gig with a great story. There’s a lot of angry energy between them, but I imagine that’s how their sound was born.”
Andrew added: “It looks at the early years and how they evolved to be a band. It’s a really interesting script, which could be a play in itself, but then you have this great music as well.”
•Sunny Afternoon is at Sunderland Empire from October 4-8. Tickets available at the Box Office on High Street West, from the Ticket Centre on
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