Sunshine on Leith (2016)

Sunshine on Leith is a great show.

Even if you aren’t aware of, or a huge fan of the music of The Proclaimers, Stephen Greenhorn crafted a show that is very accessible and extremely enjoyable.

The script is in turns hilarious, sad, full of banter and camaraderie and then deep relatable emotions. It’s a combination of the best of soap opera and modern comedy, with songs that really work.

A good while before the show was to be produced by ACAOS, I had indicated to the team that I think a great way of utilising the stage, to ensure slick scene changes and to highlight moments of the script, would be to use a rotating stage installation.

Luckily, the club agreed and we went to work.

The revolve allowed us to effect scene changes on stage with the least amount of fuss or stage traffic. It also allowed me to create wonderful stage moments at a few notable points. These included:

  • the opening scene with the squaddies in the truck about to be attacked
  • the key moment during the party when the letter is found – a difficult scene to stage as this small moment takes place during the anniversary celebration scene

We also used a HUGE projection screen with custom designed slides which helped us to navigate our way through the multiple scenes.

The ensemble work in the show was great too. The cast embraced the idea of having the chorus on stage a lot – almost breaking the fourth wall – as if the whole show was a memory, or was taking place in front of an onstage audience.

Highlights for me included the party scenes where individuals or groups worked on improvisations to make their characters “live” on the stage. A particular favourite moment was when one character in the “audience” got up and left during an emotional moment during the party scene, as if he couldn’t cope watching it. It was a little detail that many may have missed, but I really appreciated it (take a bow Iain).

The principals in this show were a joy to work with – being the kind of performers who are confident in what they know and what they can do. They also worked well together and individually. High fives to Steven Struthers, Kat Campbell, Grant Campbell, Steven Lambie, Gillian MacKissack, Laura Shepherd. One of the best things about the show is how, unlike some musicals, it provides great acting scenes for the performers to get their teeth into, and watching all of the above really demonstrate their acting chops on stage was a delight.

The chorus also performed some key movement brilliantly, guided by Lisa Kennedy’s rousing choreography. Throw the R Away (the call centre scene) was a show stopper.

But then we created lots of show stoppers – the cleaners dancing with the equipment and taking a selfie, the squaddies standing facing the panorama of Edinburgh in a blue light (homage to the Sunshine on Leith album cover), the complex dances in the anniversary scene, and of course the heartbreaking performance of “Sunshine on Leith” by Kat Campbell at her ailing husband’s bedside as some of the cast danced her memories of her courtship, the birth of her children and the discovery of his secret. This particular scene was one of those marvellous products of director vision, choreographer’s realisation, performers giving 100%, with band and technicians working hand in hand with the group. A scene that still reduces me to tears.

Audiences needed no encouragement to leap to their feet at the end.

We were honoured to welcome the writer Stephen Greenhorn to one of our performances, and he was delighted with the results, praising the staging of “Sunshine on Leith” and the “gift” of having the revolve.

Another show which was, and remains a favourite directorial experience of mine.

Too many names to mention, but thanks to Lisa Kennedy and Ross Angus (using his musical director magic not only with the principals but helping the chorus realise their fabulousness), as well Anne Smith and team on costumes, alongside Alan Love, Kenneth Finnie and Ian Young (for stage and revolve magic).


A great NODA Show Report was written by David Black and is shown below.  Well done to the cast and the crew for another fantastic ACAOS production!

“This was a polished production with flawless performances provided by all but in particular the principals who skilfully captured the fun, joys and heartaches of relationships within a tight-knit family unit.  This was further enhanced through the quality of the singing and choreography from the entire company. 

Returning home to Leith from war, squadies Davie Henshaw (Steven Lambie) and Ally (Steven Struthers) brilliantly portrayed the transition back to civilian life, re-living the atrocities experienced in Afghanistan whilst pursuing their love interests with Yvonne and Liz played with great ease by Laura Shepherd and Gillian MacKissack. 

Grant Campbell provided a first rate performance as Rab Henshaw dealing with the torment of recently discovering the daughter he never knew he had from a previous relationship in the early years of marriage.  On discovering this secret Katrina Campbell accomplishedly captured the emotions of Jean’s anger, pain and personal hurt. 

The story was portrayed creatively on a revolving stage with projections of Edinburgh Street scenes in the background and the chorus positioned around the action to make up the crowd for strong choral support to the challenging musical numbers. 

This funny, vibrant, energetic piece of musical theatre proved to be yet another success for the company who played to six ‘sell out’ audiences and attracting a worthy standing ovation which all involved should be extremely pleased with.”

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