Meet Niamh Bracken

Another month is coming to its end and it’s time for our Cast Member of the Month interview. As with Harriet Bunton, Chris Brandon and Tom Whitelock, we chose wisely once again: our Gwen/sexy waitress/British fan/American fan Niamh Bracken has been on stage most of the time, and it’s been a great pleasure watching her. I particularly enjoy catching her finale shenanigans with Chris Brandon and Gabriel Vick towards the very end: there’s something different every time and it’s bound to be fun.

West End Live

Alice Cardy, Harriet Bunton, Niamh Bracken at West End Live 2016
Photo credit: Ksenia Nemchinova

June means West End Live, and Niamh got to perform, along with the boys and Harriet and Alice, in front of the huge crowd in Trafalgar Square early in the afternoon on the 18th June. It was also good to see the cast supporting Pride in London once again on the 25th June.

Pride

Photo credit: Niamh Bracken

While I was in London, I was appointed to interrogate Niamh, so I caught up with her after one of the shows and asked her a few questions…

What is your favourite Kinks song?

Waterloo Sunset is a definite favourite, she also named Where Have All the Good Times Gone as This Time Tomorrow as those in Top 3.

If you could play any other character, who would that be, both male and female?

Naimh loves her track most of the girls’ as she believes they’re all very well cast. As for the boys, she’d love to have a go at playing Dave, she thinks that he’s the best character. She’d also like to play Larry because it’s so much fun.

What’s your favourite outfit and is there anyone else’s you’d love to wear?

Of her costumes she likes the British fan outfit, of other girls’ it’s Lia’s sister’s outfit and Alice’s finale catsuit.

Niamh

Niamh Bracken
Photo credit: Sunny Afternoon Fans

As always, we’re grateful to Niamh for her time chatting to us and answering our questions, it’s great to have her as part of the show. We already know who’s going to take over from her in July, so keep an eye on @SunnyAftFans, all will be revealed soon…

We might still have a way to go… (c)

Tom Whitelock, Danny Horn, Damien Walsh and Oliver Hoare

Tom Whitelock, Danny Horn, Damien Walsh and Oliver Hoare
Photography by Kevin Cummins

Almost a year a go to the day, I blogged about the original Sunny Afternoon cast. I guess it’s something to do with December being cold and dark that’s finally prompted me to say a few words about the new Sunny folk. They’ve been at it for over two months now and I’ve seen them 4 times (should’ve been more but I got distracted by other shows, believe it or not), so I have something to say about this new, regenerated version of my still favourite show.

I had no idea when I’d return to Panton street after 3rd October. I knew I’d be back sooner or later but was thinking I’d give myself and the new cast a couple of months. Long story short, I was there by the end of their second week. Having met most of them before and hearing good things from my fellow addicts, I was very optimistic about it. It didn’t stop me from being absolutely terrified when I took my seat – maybe I should’ve booked somewhere a bit further back but it was too late to worry about it.

Harriet Bunton, Gillian Kirkpatrick, Niamh Bracken, Damien Walsh, Jay Marsh, Alice Cardy

Harriet Bunton, Gillian Kirkpatrick, Niamh Bracken, Damien Walsh, Jay Marsh, Alice Cardy
Photography by Kevin Cummins

The best thing about the new cast and their take on the show? They’re different – extremely good different. Nobody wanted to copy their predecessors and I knew it wouldn’t be the case, but I was glad to see it with my own eyes. I somehow managed to block my memories of the original cast and store them in a safe place – they’re not going anywhere, they’re always with me, but they’re not interfering with my present relationship with the show.

It’s somewhat grounding to see a few familiar faces on stage: Alice Cardy (switching from Joyce to Peggy), Jason Baughan (continuing as Eddie Kassner) and Stephen Pallister (promoted from understudy to full-time Mr Davies/Klein). When the new cast announcement came, I was relieved: I knew some of the names from other productions or film/TV but there were no really “big” names, which means the show, its cast and Ray’s music remain the star.

Gabriel Vick, Charlie Tighe

Gabriel Vick, Charlie Tighe
Photography by Kevin Cummins

The new folk are multi-talented and clearly enjoying themselves. I’m glad I had a bit of a break between my visits, I’m getting to see how they’re developing their characters, and, I must say, I’m pleased with what I see and hear. Niamh Bracken, Harriet Bunton and Megan Leigh Mason have found their place in the show, and I particularly enjoy Niamh’s diner girl and her interaction with Danny Horn in that scene as well as watching Harriet in Set Me Free and her wedding crasher character. Gillian Kirkpatrick is a very formidable Mrs Davies – just watch her in Dead End Street and in the wedding scene – I’d expect nothing less from a mother of 6 girls and 2 boys.

The Kinks’ new managerial representatives are… erm… represented by Gabriel Vick as Robert Wace, Charlie Tighe as Grenville Collins and Chistopher Brandon as Larry Page. While I was very much enjoying Gabriel’s performance from the very start, I wasn’t entirely sure about Wace and Collins dynamic when I first saw them in the show. Either I’m just getting used to it or something’s changed indeed, but it was more balanced when I was back later. Jay Marsh has a number of characters and utilises a range of good accents, and I especially enjoy watching him during the Ravens’ gig and then in the second half.

Oliver Hoare, Danny Horn, Damien Walsh, Tom Whitelock

Oliver Hoare, Danny Horn, Damien Walsh, Tom Whitelock
Photography by Kevin Cummins

The new Kinks are… I’m not sure any words could do them justice and would very much like to have any kind of recording of this cast. First thing that strikes about them is how confident they sound as a band. Of course they’re all accomplished musicians but they do sound as if they’ve been gigging together for years and years. Tom Whitelock (Pete Quaife) and Damien Walsh (Mick Avory) have been developing their characters and seem to be less overshadowed by the Davies brothers than they were early on. I can only hope they’ll continue going in the right direction, because Pete and Mick were vital ingredients in the band’s success – putting up with Ray and Dave, touring and staying more or less sane was not that simple, as we can see in a scene or two. Tom is a highly skilled bass player, and I enjoy Damien’s drumming throughout the show and especially in Waterloo Sunset, his “kick” is spot on.

Oliver Hoare’s Dave reminds me of my sister – younger siblings and all that. I was watching him during Dead End Street and couldn’t get rid of the thought that something was very familiar, and then it dawned on me. It’s a good thing, before you say anything. His Dave is an arrogant and annoying teenager and it makes you wonder how other people don’t come up with a drum pedal idea long before Mick in the Cardiff scene. Oliver is a fantastic guitar player and you’re bound to notice it. When I was watching them for the first time, I was very tired and on too little sleep, but when he started playing Waterloo Sunset, it made me jump. If I thought Oliver was amazing then, next time I was in he was beyond my most optimistic expectations.

Danny Horn

Danny Horn
Photography by Kevin Cummins

Danny Horn is our new Ray. I knew Danny from his TV work and somehow felt weirdly confident when I heard he’d be taking over from John Dagleish. Five years ago, I was watching another Doctor Who Christmas special, and Danny was in it, I thought something along the lines: “Oh, this boy reminds me of Ray.” Prophecies, anybody? Sunny Afternoon is Danny’s West End debut and it’s safe to say it couldn’t have been better for him and for us. I can’t be grateful enough for the way he’s portraying Ray: he’s ethereal and captivating, he’s made this role his own in absolutely no time and he manages to capture the mood and the atmosphere perfectly. It’s a bit scary – good scary – how much he sounds like Ray in some of the songs. Close your eyes during You Really Got Me or Where Have All the Good Times Gone and you’ll be amazed how difficult it is to tell the difference. It’s as if the original tracks have been rearranged or remastered and rereleased. After my first visit, Danny carefully inquired what I had to say of the show (“It were alright!” ©) and especially my favourite song – he was pleased to hear that Sitting in My Hotel still had made me cry.

I think it’s clear from all of the above that I’m very much enjoying this new version of my favourite show, this musical for those who hate musicals. I hope it’ll continue to make people happy and just get better and better. I am coming back and can’t wait to see it again.