Thirty months ago today I went to the Hampstead Theatre to see Sunny Afternoon for the first time. I had no idea what to expect and I definitely couldn’t imagine that it was to become one of the most important parts of my life. Last week, after just over two years in the West End, we said goodbye for now to this wonderful little show that means the world to me.
As a matter of fact, Saturday was one of the best days ever. Sad as it was, we had a proper reunion with some of the people I’d met through our passion for Sunny, it was good to have most of my now close friends together. It was also lovely to see and catch up with some of the original cast. If not for them and their brilliance I doubt I would’ve gotten so attached to the show in the first place. But the main focus was on those on stage, naturally. We had a bit of a warning from Gabriel regarding the matinee and were curious to see what tricks he had up his sleeve and we were not disappointed. However, we somehow forgot about Chris… I mean, he’s always been the one responsible for silliness and hilarity, and so many times I was worried I might die of laughter and hold him responsible for that, but on Saturday he took it on a completely different level. Knowing when to watch him (“Larry has a lot of contacts, he’s tremendously well connected…” etc), we must’ve confused some people with our laughter. Having said that, first prize goes to Niamh and Alice who conspired and gave Danny the spoons instead of the usual washboard to play in Dead End Street. The look on Danny’s face and his attempts to play the new instrument were priceless. ‘Rasa’ slapping ‘Ray’ when he told her he couldn’t get married because he was about to go on tour deserves a special mention!
After the matinee Jess cheerfully noted that it was only going to get worse from then on. Debbie, Helen and I were at our favourite table BB in the evening, which probably didn’t help matters. We warned Helen she might get drowned as we were on either side of her. I’m actually surprised because I was doing really well up until Rock’n’Roll Fantasy, it didn’t feel like the world was ending or anything, I was just trying to avoid thinking it was the last time I was watching my favourite show in that theatre with that cast. But then the last part of the show came… Rock’n’Roll Fantasy, Days, A Long Way from Home – this combination is bad enough on normal occasions, trying to stop sobbing and look up was unbearably difficult on Saturday. Only mild consolation was the fact that most of the cast were tearing up and by the end of Waterloo Sunset I wanted to offer some of them my tissues. Finale is supposed to lift you up and it did, but it was the third time I was crying during the bloody Lola – I’m not particularly fond of that song, but not to that extent, you know. Afterwards, Ray came on stage and said a few words about the show and thanked everyone involved – we were especially pleased that our beloved Fabio, the best guitar tech there is, got a mention from the man himself – and we got a handful of plectrums from Fabio, I can actually make that necklace now. After the show we managed to say our goodbyes to most of the cast, it was nice to hear that our support was appreciated. I got to catch up with Joe Penhall and tell him everything I’d been meaning to say for ages – I can never thank him enough for all the work he’s put into the show, for getting it off the ground, for working closely with Ray and yet being passionate about the result of their collaboration, I owe Joe so much and I’m glad I was making sense and he didn’t just run away from me.
Sunny Afternoon has given me a lot. It introduced me to some of my now favourite actors from both casts, it’s been constant source of happiness on my trips to London over the last 2,5 years, and more often than not the reason for those trips. All the way from Hampstead, through an amazing two years at the Harold Pinter Theatre, winning 4 Olivier Awards, performing at West End Live, OnBlackheath, Royal Albert Hall and Wembley – it’s been one hell of a ride and it’s given me so many happy memories for years to come. Initially, I was going to the show on my own or with some of my old Kinks friends, but thanks to Sunny Afternoon I now have a bunch of new friends who, I hope, will stay in my life: Sandie and her love for purple boas and fedoras, Debbie and her neverending support and enthusiasm, creator of our wonderful fan page Jess and her love for Bowie, my TeamRyan buddy and touring partner in crime Helen, Ceri and her creative spirit, our beautiful Queen of Emojis Kate, and Sarah who, despite joining our ranks a bit later, quickly became a good friend. Thank you for all the giggles and company at the show and other events, I’m glad we met.
Sad and devastated as I am now, I still have the tour and I love them a lot already, so this is not the end, even though London won’t be the same without Sunny Afternoon. It’s not sunk in properly yet, it’ll probably hit me when I least expect it, but I know for sure that I’ve had the best of times and will miss the show in Panton Street, at its London home. Please come back soon, we need you.
“And though you’re gone,
You’re with me every single day, believe me.”