SUCH is the richness of The Kinks’ back catalogue that the many songs paraded to our delight in Sunny Afternoon constitute only a relatively small sample of what might have been there.
All, of course, are the work of Ray Davies, both a pioneer in the field of hard rock, even punk, and a throwback, in songs like Waterloo Sunset and Autumn Almanac, to an era of composition in which was celebrated the special delights of being British.
A hit in the West End, with a story by Ray and script by Joe Penhall, the show reached Oxford this week, and a packed New Theatre, on its first national tour under director Edward Hall.
What we see is a picture, fascinating to behold, of the first few years of the band’s days of fame, beginning with their debut hit, the blistering You Really Got Me from 1964.
This took over the No 1 spot from The Honeycombs’ Have I the Right?, the sort of formulaic hit from which the ground-breaking work of The Kinks could not have been more different.
Punctuating the story are superbly delivered versions of the early hits from Ryan O’Donnell as Ray, Mark Newnham as his brother Dave on lead guitar, Garmon Rhys as bassist Pete Quaife and Andrew Gallo as drummer Mick Avory.
The last gets to deliver a good pounding not just to the skins but to the head of the lairy Dave, whose rock ‘n’ roll attitude (cf, Keith Moon and Brian Jones, both referenced in the script) served as the template for havoc to follow.
The complications arising from the band’s management problems are explored, with bosses Robert and Grenville, each a Well Respected Man About Town, amusingly portrayed by Joseph Richardson and Tomm Coles.
So, too, is the Davies’s home life in working-class Muswell Hill, with mum and dad (Deryn Edwards and Robert Took) telling us all about the Dead End Street.
Naturally we hear of the sex that goes with rock ‘n’ roll (if not of the drugs), with Dave making most of the running after Ray’s early marriage to Rasa (excellent Lisa Wright).
Until Sat, atgtickets.com
CHRISTOPHER GRAY 5/5