Some tribute musicals struggle to inject any real drama into the rapid rise to fame of rock music’s iconic stars. When it comes to the story of the Kinks, though – the working-class lads from north London who first shot to number one in 1964 with You Really Got Me – there’s enough sensational incident in the history of the band itself to power several two-and-half-hour dramas, including this one about the band’s formative years, written by Joe Penhall and directed by Edward Hall from a story by the Kinks’ artistic leader, songwriter and poet, Ray Davies.
Built around the artistic partnership of two brothers who didn’t get on, riven by violent arguments, and prone to wrecking high-profile gigs with on-stage fist-fights and walkouts, the band was always a three-ring circus of internal grief and tragi-comedy; and all of this is recorded in faithful if slightly rambling style in a show that also features terrific performances of every memorable Kinks hit of the Sixties and Seventies, along with some poignantly reflective new songs by Ray Davies.
Ryan O’Donnell gives a fine and nuanced performance as Ray, Lisa Wright is lovely and poignant as first wife Rasa, and the music magnificent throughout, from Sunny Afternoon to Lola. Those were the days, my friend, when working-class kids could break through as artists to represent a new, egalitarian England to the world; and it’s a fine thing Ray Davies is still with us, 50 years on, to remind us just how much energy that great creative explosion unleashed, and at what cost.
Edinburgh Playhouse, final performances today. King’s Theatre, Glasgow, 11-15 October; and on tour.