City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Sunshine on Leith Review


By Lindsay Corr - Posted on 10 December 2008

4
Show Details
Company: 
Dundee Rep
Production: 
James Brining (Director), Hilary Brooks (Musical Director), Stephen Greenhorn (Writer), Charlie and Craig Reid (Songs), Lizzi Gee (Choreographer), Designer (Neil Warmington)
Performers: 
Davy (Keith Fleming), Ally (Kevin Lennon), Liz (Gail Watson), Yvonne (Denise Hoey), Jean (Ann Louise Ross), Rab (John Buick)
Running time: 
120mins

With recent news that Leith Docks is to undergo a £700million development project to create a shiny new urban village - it couldn't be more apt that Sunshine on Leith returns to Edinburgh seeped in its history.

Winning public and critical acclaim when it first hit our stages in 2007 - the jukebox musical set to the songs of bespectacled Fifers The Proclaimers returns with more energy and vigour, making similar ventures of melding pop with play (Mamma Mia!, We Will Rock You!) pale in comparison.

Beginning with a sobering opening depicting soldiers policing Afghanistan and belting out 'Sky Takes the Soul' which echoes the imminence of death in a pointless conflict, we're quickly transported to Scottish soil as pals Davy (Keith Fleming) and Ally (Kevin Lennon) return to their beloved Leith. With a hearty rendition of 'I'm On My Way' playing out as a stroll down the Walk - complete with a tram worker who's more concerned with his Greggs than work - the boys return to life and its minor complications that mire the mind.

Davy's sister Liz (Gail Watson) is torn between delight at return of boyfriend Ally and restless desire to do something with her life rather than serve the NHS as a nurse. Meanwhile Mum Jean (Ann Louise Ross), scrapping by as a Britannia cleaner and ex-docker Dad Rab (John Buick), approach 30 years of marriage with an estrangement over a brief encounter from the past. As for Davy, he settles into the monotony of call centre work and a spark with Liz's nursing friend Yvonne (Denise Hoey).

Focusing on life, death and, most importantly, love Stephen Greenhorn is not afraid to hold back, creating an ingenious script that perfectly melds with the tone of The Proclaimers' tunes. Sure it's a little contrived at points and blatantly sentimental but James Brining's direction never lets it wander too far from the political fire that seeps beneath throughout (demonstrated beautifully with Liz's lament at hospital privatisation with ‘What Do You Do When Democracy Fails You?’)

Like when Willy Russell came up with Blood Brothers, this just works. Be it the rousing rendition of a hibees bar chant delivered in the most exhilarating number 'Let's Get Married' to the title track performed against expectation with pathos and simplicity, Hilary Brooks' arrangements are beautifully executed and ignite theatricality into the earthy, biting lyrics of the Reid Brothers.

Lizzi Gee's perfectly simple yet slick choreography allows the cast to throw themselves into all aspects of this vibrant show with gutteral flair and it's easy to see that the cast are loving every minute whilst performing with conviction. There is a real homely atmosphere created that makes you believe you've known these characters all your life and relate to their issues of identity, repression, adultery, aging and holding on to love.

Even though there were a few clunks and moments when the stellar orchestra drowned out the performers you don't care - this show is energetic entertainment throughout sprinkled with just enough saccharine sweet moments to find it loveabley warming over unbelievably corny.

With no ingredient missing this show is a glorious piece of family entertainment that will make you laugh, reflect and possibly shed a little tear or two. And reaching the finale, the song that salutes the end of the night in most nightclubs and The Proclaimers biggest hit 'I'm gonna be (500 miles)' begins wonderfully in a slow build-up that inevitably turns into a rabble rousing chorus of "da da da da" and hand clapping, ensuring a euphoric audience leave the theatre thoroughly invigorated. I'm no havering to you.

ClaytonG: ‘Sunshine on Leith' would win over the hearts of most theatre-goers

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