Sunshine on Leith (2007) Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
James Brinning (director), Stephen Greenhorn (writer), Hilary Brooks (musical director/arrangement), Neil Warmington (designer), Lizzi Gee (choreographer), Oliver Fenwick (lighting designer)
Cast: John Buick, Keith Fleming, Kim Gerrard, Jimmy Harrison, Kevin Lennon, Irene Macdougall, John McManus, Carl Patrick, Iain Pirie, Ann Louise Ross, Annalissa Rossi, Gail Watson, Judith Williams, Emily Winter, Jacqui Zvimba. Band: Hilary Brooks, Jon Beales, Phillip Alexander, Andy Sharkey, Tom MacNiven, Nigel Clark, Malcolm MacFarlane, Gordon Wilson, Konrad Wisniewski

The enduring success of 'Desert Island Discs' lies in recognising music and song as integral to the narratives which make up our lives.

 If you're Edinburgh bred and buttered, a Leither, a Hibee or have simply been walking around for the past twenty years with your ears open, The Proclaimers music has very likely seeped into your consciousness in some way. Which is pretty much the premise 'Sunshine on Leith' is built on. Its been a bold step on the part of Dundee Rep to let writer Stephen Greenhorn loose on the oeuvre of Craig and Charlie Reid. What has emerged is a cheerful, song-packed show clearly aimed at a family and fan-based audience.

It has to be noted that narrative does seem to suffer from the constraints of shoe-horning as many Proclaimers numbers into the 'two hours traffic of the stage' - well maybe a wee bit longer in this case, but even so, it does feel at times that any situation, comic or tragic, is at least as much a cue for a song as a driver of such plot-line as the show possesses.

The story-line itself is frankly a wee thing thin - two army pals return home to Leith, one to find the love of his life, the other to lose the girl he left behind as she turns into the woman she wants to be, while a brief bout of marital infidelity in the past comes back to haunt a seemingly solid relationship. To be frank, there's more than a tiny touch of soap opera to this homely tale, and its emotional range doesn't fully match the sharpness of the numbers which carry it along.

Which noted, there's nonetheless some fine acting (and singing), particularly from Ann Louise Ross (Jean), Jimmy Harrison (Andy), John Buick (Rab), and Annalissa Rossi (Hazel), all of whom are simply the tip of a solid cast working to great effect. The crucial musical contribution of Hilary Brooks, Jon Beales, Phillip Alexander, Andy Sharkey, Tom McNiven, Nigel Clark, Malcolm MacFarlane, Gordon Wilson, and Konrad Wisniewski helps take some of Craig and Charlie's finest numbers places they've never been before.

Which is perhaps justification and reason enough for 'Sunshine on Leith' - Greenhorn, the cast and musicians play with both context and intention, although never with the actual content of the Proclaimers songs. Some role-reversal and gentle gender-bending go on, with one or two of the songs from the Reid's evangelical Christian days used to adroit effect.

So a good night out, despite these possibly over-intellectual reservations. Apparently the show received a standing ovation at its Dundee premiere, and certainly on the night this reviewer was in, got as rousing a reception in Edinburgh (this is a surprise?). Proclaimers fans are unlikely to be put off by less-than-fulsome reviews, and neither should anyone else. Simply sit back and enjoy the familiar sounds in a different setting.