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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me @markffisher and @writeabouttheat I am an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian, Scotland on Sunday and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success, published in February 2012 and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers published in July 2015. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide. See my website for more information and comprehensive Scottish theatre links.
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Friday, September 17, 2010

Sunshine on Leith, theatre review

Published in The Guardian

Sunshine on Leith
4 out of 5

The title track is so moving that the audience can't bring itself to clap – people just sit in awed silence. Name any other jukebox musical of which you can say that. From its opening battlefield salvo to the party punch-up that ushers in the interval, Stephen Greenhorn's Proclaimers tribute refuses to play by the rules. In this, it is every bit as idiosyncratic, awkward and lovable as the music of Craig and Charlie Reid.

On this show's first outing in 2007, the hospital bedside rendition of Sunshine on Leith made me cry. Seeing it now for a third time as it launches a UK tour, I find myself welling up repeatedly: at the poignant last verse of Over and Done With (a mini-drama in itself); at the deft commentary about male emotional repression in Misty Blue; and at the adulterous tug-of-love tension of Heaven Right Now. By the time Anne Smith sings Sunshine on Leith, I can only look away.

A more sober critic might mutter about the show's soap-opera narratives, the excessive length of the first half and the occasional plot contrivance. But fie on sober critics: Greenhorn's musical is written with the same big-hearted attitude, democratic political spirit and joyous humanity as the fabulous set of songs, which are made more dramatic yet in the arrangements of Hilary Brooks.

Working with an almost completely new cast, led by Billy Boyd, Michael Moreland, Jo Freer and Zoe Rainey, director James Brining matches the performers' everyman charm with a slick, fast-paced staging that bubbles with choreographic invention. Three years since its debut, the discussion of the private finance initiative has lost some edge, but the talk of cutbacks and the trials of army life has come crisply into focus. When it comes to leftwing sentiment married to killer tunes, no other British musical has achieved as much since Blood Brothers.

© Mark Fisher 2010

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