The stage is all dressed up as a 1960s dancehall occupied by tuxedo-clad crooners at the opening of Joe Penhall and Ray Davies' musical history of the early days of Davies' seminal band, The Kinks. By the end, however, the hysteria of Madison Square Garden has whipped a nostalgia-seeking audience into a suitable frenzy. Inbetween in Edward Hall's touring production of a show first seen at Hampstead Theatre in 2014, the Muswell Hill born Davies brothers take on the world, crash, burn and come out fighting to produce a now classic canon of pre-punk music hall social realist vignettes.
Penhall's necessarily dot-to-dot script lays bare a tale of back street ambition, tortured genius and warring siblings, with sensitive songwriter Ray and his wild child kid brother Dave initially flanked by a living room full of sisters who rather handily double up as a swinging op-art chorus line. As the band square up to money men in London and New York, there is impressionistic commentary on class, the music biz, the mental strain of touring and a couple of extended scenes showing how a song is put together.
Some of the American scenes may be one-liners, and some of the themes may only be sketched in, but the songs help, especially as given voice by a cast led by a Ryan O'Donnell as Ray and Mark Newnham as Dave. The full throttle hits are there, but so too is a four-part a cappella take on Days and a lovely I Go To Sleep by Lisa Wright as Ray's Lithuanian bride Rasa in a ferocious attempt to invest the tribute musical form with dark substance.
The Herald, September 15th 2016