Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Sunshine On Leith - A Review by James Beck

Sunshine on Leith is back for a third run since it first started in 2007 – but with one big difference. It is now starring SYT patron Billy Boyd! He joins a practically brand-new cast for the touring production, which is also going down to England. (No idea what they’ll think of the accents)

I saw Sunshine on Leith the last time it was on at Dundee (2008), and I should warn you that it is not your conventional musical. When people hear that it is based on the songs of Scottish duo The Proclaimers, most minds jump to other such musicals as Mamma Mia! (Abba) and We Will Rock You (Queen), both which have very tongue-in-cheek approaches to the story, and also act as a homage to the original artists. Sunshine on Leith is like that, with great elements of humour, but still emerges with a raw emotional heart that manages to hit you in the tear ducts.

(I will say now that when myself, Mr Kyle Pryke and Miss Viki Leech went to see it there was some changes in casting, so this review will be based on who was playing the characters at that performance, and not what it says in the programme)

The play centres around the return of Davy (Billy Boyd) and Ally, soldiers in the Iraq War, to their hometown, Leith. Ally goes out with Davy’s sister, Liz, a fiercely independent young woman determined to go out and see the world. Davy and Liz’s parents, Rab (Jon Buick) and Jean (Anne Smith – usually Ann Louise Ross), are getting ready for their 30th wedding anniversary when Rab (unknown to Jean) receives a letter from a former flame, Margaret (Samantha Blaney) which contains details of their last night together – which happened when Jean was pregnant with Davy… Liz and Ally set up Davy with Yvonne, an English nurse, something that Davy thought would never work – but as this Sunshine on Leith, the path of love never did run smooth…

Highlights include: learning how to speak properly in a call centre (Throw the R Away); the impromptu marriage in a pub (Let’s Get Married); and an embarrassing speech from Rab (Oh Jean), and the tender emotional songs such as Letter from America, Sunshine on Leith, not to mention the famous 500 Miles, and yes, you will be expected to join in! I’d love to say more without giving anything away, but, that’s pretty much impossible. The music’s fantastic, with a live band, and a simple set allows the scenes to move swiftly into each other. The first song was a bit loud, but the audience soon settled into the natural flow of things.

Otherwise, a flawless production!