SUNSHINE ON LEITH
Crescent Theatre, Birmingham, Friday 2nd October, 2015
This jukebox musical is based around the songs of Scottish duo, the Proclaimers – No, I couldn’t name enough of their songs to fill the back of a matchbox never mind fill out a show. In a way, this helps – there appears to be less ‘shoe-horning’ in of songs, just to get the hits in. It’s the story of Ally and Davy, back from a tour of duty and looking for a new start in their home town. Ally is with Liz, Davy’s sister, and Liz sets her brother up with her workmate, fellow nurse, Yvonne. Meanwhile, Liz and Davy’s parents hit a rocky patch when a long-ago affair comes to light… It’s soap opera stuff and hardly original but Stephen Greenhorn’s script has plenty of funny lines and it is played by a likeable cast who hold our interest.
Chris Johnson’s Ally convinces both in terms of accent and emotion, while Maria Rodriguez is a vivacious Liz. Brooklyn Barber is an appealing Yvonne, but it is Mark Walsh as Davy who is a cut above the rest, delivering a West End-quality performance, engaging, emotive and just about perfect. Rob Fusco is particularly strong as Davy’s dad Rab, while Sharon Tozer as mum Jean warms up as the show goes on – her dramatic scenes are excellent, as is her rendition of the title song.
The chorus is in good voice and work with focus to create bustling scenes and background atmosphere but Stephen Duckham’s direction is patchy: a flashback scene could be staged more clearly, for example, but there are moments of flair – a brawl freezes to become a frieze, the backdrop for a heated discussion between Rab and Jean. It’s not helped by a boxy, cumbersome set that slows down some of the transitions. Less is more in these cases – lighting and scenic projections would have done the job slickly and stylishly.
Some of the songs contain social commentary and there are several throwaway lines of dialogue about the privatisation of the NHS but there is never a sense that anyone can do anything about it. The characters are too caught up in the soap opera dramas of their lives to think of the bigger picture – which is how most people carry on, I suppose.
On the whole though it’s an enjoyable evening, a lively production of a run-of-the-mill story, enlivened by talented lead players and a hard-working, well-drilled chorus. The best song, the one about walking 500 miles, is saved for the end, for a rousing, feel-good finish. Once again BMOS delivers the goods.