Theatre review: Sunshine On Leith @ Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

How do you know if your band has made it? Like, really made it.

The defining endorsement of mainstream acceptance used to be finding your music on karaoke (younger readers, please substitute Singstar or Guitar Hero here) but now the ultimate achievement is getting your back catalogue turned into a musical.

Queen, The Beatles, Take That and, of course, ABBA have been brought to all-singing, all-dancing, all-screaming life on stage, so The Pop Cop was keen to find out how Scotland’s very own heroes, THE PROCLAIMERS, would fare.

Sunshine On Leith tells the story of two returning soldiers adapting to life back in Leith. And although the local cast, with their colloquial humour and geographical namedropping, were more than competent singers and enthusiastic performers, none of their characters had sufficient emotional resonance to really move us.

As the show progressed we also realised that there was a major flaw in the entire concept – The Proclaimers just don’t have very many bona fide hits. You’ve got 500 Miles (obviously), Letter From America, Sunshine On Leith, I’m On My Way… and then you hit a wall.

So having heard just one of the famous four before the intermission, the half-time chatter amongst the wrinklies (we stood out like a lighthouse between the grey-tops) was of how many numbers were unfamiliar to them.

Things eventually picked up. The live band, hidden away under the stage, suitably captured the energy of The Proclaimers’ songs, with the original arrangements mercifully surviving pretty much intact.

But there was nowhere near enough fun or silliness to make up for an often disjointed plot (just watch Mamma Mia to see how raucously well that can be done) that asked the audience to follow the trials and tribulations of three pairs of love interests, which, frankly, is two too many for a 150-minute performance. When it comes to stage shows, you want Romeo & Juliet, not Friends.

There’s no denying The Proclaimers are national treasures, but the likelihood is that you’ll come out of Sunshine On Leith feeling entertained but not enthralled.

4 The Proclaimers – Letter From America
b up to January 3, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh (tickets)
b February 10-21, King’s Theatre, Glasgow (tickets)

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