Sunshine @ Leith


We were at HM Theatre Aberdeen reviewing Sunshine on Leith last night. It’s a splendid show, perhaps the best I've seen in a good many years,  and I recall first seeing it in around 2008 although it may have been a wee bit earlier and maybe even in Dundee. To be honest, it’s not really any better – how after all could you improve on such perfection. 
The musical first saw light at Dundee Rep in far off 2003 following a review of the back catalogues of several Scottish bands by playwright Stephen Greenhorn. Awaking from some whisky-fuelled review session, Stephen found a post-it note, written in his own hand from the night before, with the words “Proclaimers musical?” written on it. Sunshine on Leith was born.

Since then Sunshine has morphed into film then back to stage again and now features around eighteen original Proclaimers songs from the day.

It’s quite a splendid production but then, as a reviewer I would say that wouldn’t I?

Well no actually. If a book, or indeed a stage production, fails to work, then surely it is best to say so. But not perhaps in so many words. I mean, who wants to burst bubbles after all. Sometimes however, there is no way back from that troublesome brink. I recall a book review which included the infamous line "In an attempt to murder fiction. the author has resorted to ....". I may yet publish this slight upon the English language.
In fact a pal today reminded me of a fellow writer who, given the poetic urge, can insult you and call you an ass without you even realising it. I have had many misunderstandings with the man in question and am well aware of the subtle problem although I do still respect him.
Another writer friend, intent on some insular agenda or other, brooks no fools and, in various pieces of bluster has openly insulted anyone who dares to wield pen. All grist to the mill I suppose and turn that other cheek.

But back to the reviews.

It’s a funny thing writing a review. If you’re too rough with the words then getting invited back might just be a wee problem. If your too kind then your readership may view your words as entirely supplicant and insignificant – useless indeed.

There are of course ways to keep within the boundaries. The use of terms such as ‘could do better’ is perhaps a bit unsubtle. But the likes of “this musical will no doubt delight fans of the original TV show plus a good few of the uninitiated amongst us” or “As an all singing and all dancing musical, Legally Blonde is a whole lot of fun and if last night’s stand-up applause is anything to go by then the show delivers exactly what it says on the tin” might at least provide a clue to the enlightened reader.

It’s never safe to overstep the boundaries of course. I well recall a local talent show at Inverurie town hall a year or so back. The deal was seats for words. Corralled in the upper balcony of the venue and denied images to use with the piece, I set forth during the interval to take a few shots and speak to a few of the audience. To their credit, the organisers confined their criticism on the night to a few well aimed glares. I published next day and they complained, and I have never been invited back, nor would I go. I did however get a shot of both Dolly Parton, Elvis and of course that Bowie look-a-like.

I ramble as always.


Duncan Harley is the author of The A-Z of CuriousAberdeenshire

The review of Sunshine at Leith is @: Sunshine

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