Sunshine on Leith really is a daft musical. Any show that constructs its plot around the titles of songs by The Proclaimers is bound to be. It must be said, however, that Sunshine on Leith is endlessly loveable, with a recent film adaptation by Dexter Fletcher cementing its status as a contemporary classic. Edinburgh-based amateur group Captivate Theatre successfully capture the zeitgeist with their version of the decidedly Scottish story, which stays true to the warm community feel of the source material.
This production uses the loose charm of the musical to its advantage in many ways.
For those who aren’t familiar with the story, Ally and Davy are two best friends from Leith who return home from active duty in Afghanistan. Once back by the bonnie shore, they find themselves contesting with various romantic entanglements, old and new, at a time when Davy’s parents have also hit a roadblock in their marriage. The show, understandably, plays very well to its Edinburgh audience (there is knowing laughter at every local reference) but what’s nice about the musical is that it deals with domestic stories which are relatable to practically every audience. All the problems the characters face are fairly low stake and Sunshine on Leith is very content to be what it is. For that, it’s a winning watch.
This production uses the loose charm of the musical to its advantage in many ways. It utilises a large cast of all ages, bringing their version of Leith to life with a variety of colourful characters. The big group numbers such as “Let’s Get Married” and “Over and Done With” are rousing and the weaker singing finds itself glossed over by the sing-a-long vibe of the songs. This is also evident in Shona Cowie’s touching performance of the eponymous track, where the occasional vocal strains only renders more powerful the idea that this is an everyday woman facing a horrible circumstance. This idea carries over into the choreography - what the dancing lacks in slickness is made up for in attitude. The attention to detail in the set and costume is admirable, though there were occasional slips, such as the waving around of mugs filled with scalding hot tea.
The scale of the production is impressive and it hosts generally strong core and supporting performances. Both Adrian MacDonald and Ross Hunter give understated yet expressive performances as Davy and Ally respectively, capturing that specific camaraderie and emotional stiltedness found in many Scottish men. The two girlfriends played by Hannah Collins and Stacey Mitchell spark believable chemistry with the leads, with Collins occasionally needing a little more conviction in her delivery. Davy’s parents are played wonderfully by Sandy Queenan and the aforementioned Cowie. They clearly know the characters they’re playing and it shines through. A large rostrum across the expansive stage also adds to the scale of the production, with director Sally Lyall successfully playing with levels to keep the blocking interesting throughout.
I defy you not to be uplifted by this production. The joy exuding from these performers is infectious and it’s a pleasure to have such a significant local work present at the Fringe. Life successfully affirmed.