Tag Archives: Garmon Rhys

Kinky Roots

SUNNY AFTERNOON

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Tuesday 18th April, 2017

 

You might think that the Kinks’ lead man Ray Davies had spent his entire life writing this musical; his songs have always had an autobiographical quality and so they support perfectly this telling of his rise to fame, if not fortune.  And it’s astonishing how many I, never a devout fan, know of the songs.  Their sound has a rougher edge to the Beatles’, making them more akin to the Rolling Stones, but both of these mega-groups cast the Kinks into something of a shadow.  This musical goes a long way to renewing admiration for Davies and his talents as a songsmith.

Ryan O’Donnell takes centre stage as Ray, a sensitive young man who ‘thinks in songs’, clings to his artistic integrity and does the decent thing by marrying the young girl he knocks up while on tour in Bradford.  O’Donnell is both powerful and vulnerable as the gifted Ray, a grounded contrast to younger, cockier brother Dave – an energetic performance from Mark Newnham – who takes full advantage of the rock-and-roll lifestyle suddenly on offer.  Newnham brings a touch of punk attitude, underlining the idea that the Kinks were ahead of their time.  Joseph Richardson is also remarkable as drummer Robert Wace – the musical talents of the entire cast are beyond dispute – and Garmon Rhys is equally great as deadpan guitarist Pete Quaife, unsure about his future in the band.

The highlights keep coming.  There is a Lionel Bart feel to some of the numbers with the whole cast joining in.  Dedicated Follower of Fashion is a lot of fun involving tailors’ dummies.  Miriam Buether’s design and Adam Cooper’s choreography combine to create a vibrant 60s atmosphere, not seen since the last Austin Powers movie.  Duets between O’Donnell and Lisa Wright as wife Rasa are sweet and touching – Wright sings I Go To Sleep as a solo so full of yearning it gets you right in the feels.

Unlike other stories of this ilk, it is not drink or drugs that gets in the way.  Rather, the band is bogged down by legal wrangles and exploitation by a management team – it’s a refreshing change; like their music, the story of the Kinks does not follow the cliched pattern.

Joe Penhall’s book is funny and banterous – if I can use such a horrible word.  Director Edward Hall keeps the action slick, the storytelling sharp, and the music infectious and irresistible.  This wholly enjoyable show culminates in the all-time classic Waterloo Sunset, the finest testament to Davies’s talent, cementing his place in the history of popular music.

Superb entertainment, Sunny Afternoon provides an enjoyable evening.  It’s one production where you definitely wouldn’t want them to iron the Kinks out!

kinks kevin cummins

Ryan O’Donnell and Mark Newnham as Ray and Dave Davies (Photo: Kevin Cummins)

 

 

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Giving Tuppence

THE SECRET ADVERSARY

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Tuesday 28th April, 2015

 

Agatha Christie plays always prove popular so it’s surprising that no one has adapted the Tommy and Tuppence stories for the stage before now. This touring production by the Watermill Theatre addresses this oversight.

Rather than the naturalistic approach that is reserved for Christie’s courtroom dramas or country house murder mysteries where one location is all that is required, here the set is a multi-purpose stage-within-a-stage and theatricality is heightened. A cast of seven versatile actors populate the tale and provide their own musical accompaniment with on-stage instruments. It is 1920 and we are in London. Post-war austerity is all the rage and there are rumblings of general strikes and revolution in the air.

Unfortunately there are also rumblings in the sound design. Low frequency rumblings that hamper the dialogue. Sometimes traffic sounds and machinery noises can be discerned but the general din underscores the entire production. Perhaps it’s meant to convey a sense of menace. Perhaps it is meant to depict the locations – if so then this is at odds with the non-naturalistic approach of the rest of the presentation. I find it annoying in the extreme and unnecessary, and it saps the comic energy effusing from the players, and I long to stand up and shout, Turn the bloody thing off!

Despite this handicap, the cast delivers a slick and amusing performance, as our two heroes strive to foil a Bolshevik plot to overthrow British civilisation. Garmon Rhys gives us his Tommy, an all-round decent cove, brave and not too much of a drip. He delivers a wonderful masterclass in physical comedy – I now know what to do the next time I am tied to a chair! The charming Emerald O’Hanrahan shows us her Tuppence – an indefatigably plucky young woman up for fun and derring-do. Elizabeth Marsh is stunningly good in a range of roles, from a disgruntled French chef, to a Russian activist and a nightclub performer. Morgan Philpott is excellent value in his roles – indeed, the entire ensemble is superb (Sophie Scott, Kieran Buckeridge, and Nigel Lister, to namecheck those responsible!) unflagging in their energy and comic timing. Director Sarah Punshon captures a flavour of the age and her script co-written with Johann Hari glitters with innuendo and a generous helping of silliness. There are several moments of inventive brilliance: the keyhole scene, for example, and Tommy spying on the conspirators from a skylight… There is much of the brio and style of the long-running West End hit The 39 Steps: Christie’s original is more of a John Buchan adventure than her usual fare.

There is a political message, albeit a satirical one. Why should the rich have everything and the poor nothing? Any attempts to alter this status quo must, of course, be quashed! As the general election approaches, I say we need more unrest and protest, while this tongue-in-cheek production holds up the desire to keep things the way they have always been as something to be mocked, at the very least.

tommy and tuppence


Back to (the) Front

REGENERATION

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Wednesday 5th November, 2014 

Officers suffering from shell-shock were sent to Craiglockhart Army Hospital in Scotland in order that they might be made well enough to be sent back to the trenches to be killed.  This is the absurdity that underscores Nicholas Wright’s stage adaptation of Pat Barker’s novel.  It’s like taking a pit-stop during a demolition derby.

With the First World War at the forefront of our minds in this centenary year (rightly so) there is a danger that we shall reach saturation point and desensitised to those terrible events.  Things, I find, are beginning to lose impact.  Certainly Catch 22 makes many of the same points as this play (albeit in a WW2 setting) and makes them sharper and more absurd.  Here, rather than a Yossarian, we have the poet Siegfried Sassoon quite understandably speaking out against the barbarity and senseless horrors.  For his pains, he is squirrelled away at Craiglockhart because his sane opinions are regarded as lunatic.  If he recants, he will be declared fit and sent back to the front and almost certain death – only a madman would want that…

Tim Delap hits all the right notes as the handsome and smug Sassoon, contrasting with Stephen Boxer’s quiet authority as army shrink Dr Rivers, who recognises the absurdity of his position of making men fit to be shot, but does it anyway.  With sturdy support from Garmon Rhys as Wilfred Owen and Christopher Brandon as Robert Graves, the story blends figures from real life with fictitious characters, but it’s not drama-documentary; perhaps it might be more hard-hitting if it was.

Jack Monaghan is excellent as Billy Prior who snaps out of his mutism to relive his nightmarish experiences.  It’s all very well done: Alex Eales’s set is suitably institutional and dour and both the lighting design (by Lee Curran) and the sound (George Dennis) enhance the men’s various ‘episodes’ and recollections.  There is a grimly distasteful scene involving electrodes – torture as treatment – that is still making me squirm.

Director Simon Godwin lets a creeping sense of doom have the upper hand but without the emotional or visceral punch of something like Birdsong or Journey’s End. Regeneration is well-made cannon fodder for the unstoppable and ubiquitous WWI nostalgia machine.

TIm Delap (Sassoon) and Garmon Davies (Owen) - (Photo credit: Manuel Harlan)

Tim Delap (Sassoon) and Garmon Rhys (Owen) – (Photo credit: Manuel Harlan)