Review: Sunshine on Leith, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

Steven Miller (Davy) and Paul-James Corrigan (Ally) in Sunshine on Leith.
Steven Miller (Davy) and Paul-James Corrigan (Ally) in Sunshine on Leith.
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There were more than a few moments during Sunshine on Leith when I came close to vaulting over the people in front, grabbing a guitar and elbowing a few cast members out of the way. It’s infectious, joyous and full of heart, it was an inspired choice by artistic director James Brining to revive the hit he had in Dundee as his last big show before the Playhouse closes for a major redevelopment.

That original play was turned into a film and while it has been tweaked a little in the intervening years, the story is much as it was. Two Leith lads, Davy and Ally, return home after a spell in the army and as they re-adjust to life away from the frontline they find love, heartbreak, disappointment and moments of pure elation.

The cast of Sunshine on Leith.

The cast of Sunshine on Leith.

Interweaved is a score is a series of Proclaimers’ songs, but this is neither a jukebox musical nor just a simple celebration of those Scottish folk singing brothers. It is much more than that.

Brining mustn’t have been able to believe his luck when he found Paul-James Corrigan and Steven Miller, who were born to play the two likely lads at the heart of the story. They also know how to deliver a gag and can belt out a decent tune.

In fact this an envy-making cast all told with Jocasta Almgill and Neshla Caplan proving of equal measure to Corrigan and Miller as Yvonne and Liz, nurses and best friends also struggling to find their way.

And Hilary MacLean and Phil McKee as Davy’s parents Jean and Rab, facing their own crisis after 30 years of marriage, show that youth isn’t everything as they provide the emotional injection a musical like this needs.

Sunshine on Leith is about love, it’s about the need to follow your dreams and it’s about home. As the theatre embarks on a new era, it’s also a show which is perfect way for Brining to bring the curtain down and what has already been a pretty impressive tenure.

To May 19.