Sunshine on Leith @ King's Theatre, Edinburgh
This new revival of the Edinburgh-set, Proclaimers-scored musical is an infectious and joyous production, featuring illuminating performances and very familiar tunes
The roots of the idea for the quintessential Edinburgh story that is Sunshine on Leith were actually established further north in Dundee during a chat between playwright Stephen Greenhorn and director James Brining. The concept flourished when Greenhorn hooked on the musical score from Leith legends The Proclaimers, and the play successfully debuted at the Dundee Rep in 2007. A film adaptation followed in 2013 casting the story’s net wider, and now this new stage production brings things up-to-date with nods to Brexit, Nicola Sturgeon and referendums peppered through the dialogue.
The story follows Ally (Paul-James Corrigan) and Davy (Steven Miller) on their return to Edinburgh following an army posting, as they try to weave themselves back into civilian life: taking jobs in a call centre, forging new relationships, spending time with their families, and watching Hibs down their local in Leith.
The effective and detailed set, designed by Colin Richmond, takes the audience around the city – from Waverley station, to the local hospital, to Asda with its iconic bright green sign, to a pub in upmarket Morningside – with ease as clever elements are used throughout such as a nurse’s station turning into a piano with a simple spin.
But, unsurprisingly, it’s The Proclaimers’ songs which inject the story under the skin as challenging topics from infidelity to loss and love are tackled through the lyrics, with emotion and warmth woven into them by the talented cast. Corrigan and Miller in particular are charismatic and their enthusiasm radiates from the stage, while Jocasta Almgill as Yvonne has real power and range in her vocal arsenal. The fun and upbeat songs like Over and Done With and Let’s Get Married are counterbalanced by the tear-jerking title track, sung with passion by Hilary Maclean as Jean, and the emotionally nostalgic punch of Letter From America.
And while the lead actors are universally impressive, the ensemble are also strong with Joel Burman and Tyler Collins in particular illuminating the stage, as they pop-up from behind bars strumming a guitar or emerge through the crowd at the anniversary party to belt out an impressive vocal backing.
An infectious, joyful and heartfelt production with a talented, enthusiastic cast who radiate energy and stamp the hits of the Proclaimers on the lips and in the hearts of the audience far beyond the point at which the production is, unfortunately, over and done with.