Sunshine on Leith (King's Theatre Edinburgh)

Sunshine on Leith, Pitlochry Festival Theatre Capital Theatres Edinburgh 2022

"Connor Going is the standout among the principals as Davy" The Times, Allan Radcliffe

"an excellent Connor Going throwing heart and soul into the stories of the two younger couples." The Scotsman, Joyce Mcmillan

"Connor Going and Keith Jack are an instantly likeable pair as our heroes with good singing voices" The Herald, Keith Bruce

"If the leads are a tad restrained, more televisual than theatrical, their harmonies are heavenly and their hearts are gloriously in the right place." The Guardian, Mark Fisher



Five stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Pitlochry has earned a reputation for quality musical theatre productions as part of the venue’s repertory programme and this show is a truly outstanding piece of ensemble work.

From the opening number, ‘Sky Takes the Soul’, the standard is set. A gentle almost acoustic beginning builds and builds in layers of melody and vocals that are so thrilling, it makes the hairs on your arm stand on end, drawing you in.

There is no ‘pit band’ here – instruments are played by members of the versatile cast, many of them playing more than one instrument. The inter-play and focus between the cast as musicians and characters is beautifully balanced: they wear their range of talent lightly, suiting Stephen Greenhorn’s atmosphere for Sunshine on Leith.

The set design has a flexibility and sense of place that helps weave the magic of first rate theatre. The Leith and Edinburgh skyline is depicted along the top of the stage, above a framework of staging blocks that are twisted and turned to present different locations. Adrian Rees has created a wistful, naive depiction of the buildings all set in front of the castle rock with The Pentlands as the backdrop. It gives those scenes on the hills a particular point of view and contrast to the everyday world below. The flow between each scene is smooth and clear.

Keith Jack and Connor Going seem to genuinely love playing Ally and Davy, two soldiers returning home from the army. Both spoken and sung dialogue is clearly delivered with a sense of mischief behind their portrayal. Davy’s family unit of his mother and father (Alyson Orr and Keith Macpherson) and sister Liz (Blythe Jandoo) are easy-going and comfortable and sets an idealised vision of what Ally hopes to find. As Ally picks up his relationship with Liz, they have a foursome date with Davy meeting Yvonne (Rhiane Drummond) for the first time. ‘Over and Done With’ is playful and pacy as Yvonne and Davy begin to take a shine to each other.

Connor Going (Davy) & Keith Macpherson (Rab). Photography by Fraser Band.The scene with Ally and Davy in training for work in a call centre is hilarious, centring on the Scottish voice being one of the ‘most trustworthy’ accents. Literally showing that Scotland is a voice the world trusts.

Davy’s parents, Jean and Rab, are planning their Silver Wedding ‘do’ when the apparent bliss is interrupted by the arrival of Eilidh – the daughter Rab never knew he had. The party is fractured by Eilidh being ‘found out’ and Ally’s disastrous proposal to Liz. The lyrics of ‘Hate My Love for You’ are practically spat out in the frustrations of broken trust. Davy and Yvonne are also on unsteady ground as Act I closes.

Act II keeps up the lively pace set in the first and compromises are found just as expectations for the future are realistically adjusted. These developments happen during the songs: ‘Letter From America’ which builds from a beautiful wistfulness into affirmations for the future. The context of where we are as people coming out from the pandemic colours the song and is even more fully realised in the finale ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)’. Stunning counterpoint between the female and male voices combine with just the right touch of political irony for the older and newer ‘no more’ references. The story doesn’t quite give a ‘happy ever after’ but it is a celebration of the human spirit and triumph over adversity.

Greenhorn has updated some of the book to be more relevant for today’s audiences, keeping the text fresh and relevant. Above all, the message here is that we have more in common with each other than we probably realise. Cleverly, the pathos in the show avoids the pitfall of being ‘sentimental’.

Brilliant direction from Elizabeth Newman and Ben Occhipinti is supported by Lesley Hutchison’s movement (nicely avoiding deliberate ‘dance’) and musical direction by Richard Reeday. A special mention for David Shrubsole’s arrangements for the show.  The use of strings, in particular, gives us The Proclaimers songs dressed up in their ‘Sunday Best’.

Between them, this talented cast play several electric and acoustic guitars, full drum kit, keyboards, mandolin, tambourine, double bass, violin and cello (well done carrying it around!) An absolute pleasure – Rachael McAllister, Jessica Brydges, Richard Colvin, Anna Fordham, James Hudson, Kit Orton and Richie Spicer. The joy of the repertory theatre model is that all of the cast will perform in other shows through the summer and early autumn.

This musical comedy is all heart. Terrific work, Pitlochry!

Musical Theatre Review, Fiona Orr