Tag Archives: Mark Newnham

Kinky Roots


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)



Nice and Horrible


Derby Theatre, Thursday 2nd January, 2014


This year’s Christmas show at Derby Theatre is a refreshing departure from the ubiquitous traditional fare – although there are some elements of panto to it: we get to boo the baddies and cheer the good guys, for example.

Horrible Histories mastermind Terry Deary has written a story that amuses and informs without being didactic or labouring its message.  Young boy Watson (Mark Newnham) sneaks downstairs in the middle of the night to open a couple of presents, only to witness the arrival of evil Sidney Claus, the antithesis to Father Christmas, and his reindeer sidekick Rudolph.  This pair has come to steal the presents rather than deliver any.  Sidney’s master plan is to destroy Christmas forever.

Watson teams up with chirpy detective Shirley Holmes (Sarah Pelosi) and the scene is set for a time-travelling romp that takes us back to Charles Dickens, Oliver Cromwell, Henry VIII and so on, all the way to Bethlehem and King Herod.  On the way we learn about the origins of certain traditions like roast turkey for dinner and Christmas stockings, but these facts are always incidental to the fun.

Andrew Vincent is an enjoyable villain, with Simon Snashall amusingly dim as his side of venison.  The ensemble double up on parts; favourites for me are Elizabeth Rose as Oliver Cromwell’s dour Mrs debunking Christmas carols  (Good ‘King’ Wenceslas was only a Duke, you know) the Puritans’ production number and the marvellously flamboyant, rapping Charles II.

As you’d expect, if you’ve seen the brilliant TV series, there is a lot of silliness, fun with anachronisms, and plenty of wit in the lyrics to the jolly songs.

In fact, my only reservation is it’s not horrible enough.  The emphasis here is on fun and there is even a touching moment of forgiveness and reconciliation.  It’s just that I was expecting a bit more gore and a lot more pooh.