Capital Theatres could hardly have chosen a better show to bid farewell to the beautiful King’s Theatre in Edinburgh – closing for a long-awaited refurb – than Stephen Greenhorn‘s perky Sunshine on Leith. A co-production with Pitlochry Festival Theatre, the show’s feisty cast of 14 take to the stage with an inventive new arrangement of the now-classic musical woven around songs by beloved Scottish duo, The Proclaimers.
The narrative inevitably stretches a bit thin over the course of the thrills and spills of the two-hour show, yet Greenhorn’s done a commendable job of knitting the songs into a coherent story. Ally and Davy return to Leith from a recent tour of duty. Ally’s reunited with girlfriend Liz and a celebratory night out results in his pal hooking up with Liz’s friend, Yvonne. But as Liz’s dad, Rab, arranges a 30th anniversary party for his wife, there’s a wee 27-year-old surprise waiting in the wings. There are break ups and make-ups, as well as a magic 500 Miles to see everyone on their way as the show winds to its close.
Directors Elizabeth Newman and Ben Occhipinti have created a cracking production that keeps the soundtrack front and centre. Most of the ensemble cast are also musicians so we have guitars, bass guitars, violins, a cello, double bass, and a drum kit bouncing through the boisterous soundtrack. Adrian Rees‘ nifty set sees Leith – and chunks of the New Town – perched atop a collection of open-sided wheeled platforms that create a nicely fluid series of tableaus, which ease the filmic transitions between scenes.
The central performances are all endearing enough. Connor Going‘s Davy is sweetly sincere as the sensitive solider delighted to step away from his tour of duty, his vocals perfectly controlled. Rhianne Drummond as Yvonne starts out determined to resist Davy’s charms but is quickly infatuated. Her duets with Davy are especially lovely. Blythe Jandoo as Liz delivers a cracking wail to the failure of democracy as she wonders when nurses will finally be treated with the respect they deserve in What Do You Do?. Finally, Alyson Orr is a touchingly frustrated mother lion, trying her best to keep her pack together. All the characters come into their own in the less exuberant but infinitely more touching second half, wrestling with the bad that life flings their way. The audience rise to their feet in delight when they (mostly) find their way through the tough times to happiness by the euphoric curtain call.
Calling out individual cast members feels inherently unjust in a production where every single person on stage looks like they’re having a ball. Lesley Hutchison’s movement direction weaves the musicians inextricably into the action, creating a colourful hustle and bustle on stage to people the cardboard houses perched above. Anna Fordham on bass guitar is a particular flamboyant delight.
This show is a celebration of the Scottish spirit, shot through with poignant ballads and punchy anthems from Scotland’s favourite musical duo – and this production does those songs perfect justice. So whether you’re a theatre lover, a musical lover or just a Proclaimers lover, the sun is shining on this version of Leith.
If you miss the show’s run in Edinburgh, fret not: it returns to Pitlochry Festival Theatre on 24 June and runs throughout the summer – come rain or sunshine.