Opening to rave reviews at the West Yorkshire Playhouse earlier this year, Sunshine On Leith is the powerful and emotive musical featuring the songs of The Proclaimers.
After the first production opening at the Dundee Rep eleven years ago, followed by a smash-hit film, the production has been revived for a UK tour. I spoke to Jocasta Almgill, who plays the role of Yvonne in the production, about what audiences can expect from the musical.
“It’s about two ex-soldiers Ally and Davy who come home from service. Ally is already in a relationship and is going back to his ideal life and what he wants for the future, but Davy doesn’t quite know what to do with his life,” Jocasta explained. “He ends up getting set up with Yvonne, the character I play, and it follows the story of three different couples. Some end well, and some don’t end as well, but it is a story of real-life and real relationships.”
Set to the timeless songs of The Proclaimers, as Davy and Ally find their way back home in Edinburgh, it is a funny and moving story of life and love. Jocasta’s role Yvonne is an English woman who is living up in Edinburgh. “She is strong and feisty, but very sweet,” she said. “She has a big heart and is very warm, but you can definitely feel that she has been hurt before in past relationships because she is slightly reserved.”
Yvonne goes on a romantic rollercoaster in the show and Jocasta described her as really wearing her heart on her sleeve. “It’s so up and down, she really falls head over heels for her love interest Davy,” Jocasta said. “There are a few moments in the show that remind her of past relationships so she backs away which of course is relatable. She wants to be honest and open but is so scared of getting hurt.”
Previously performing in productions such as Dreamgirls and In The Heights, Jocasta as delved into a variety of different musicals, but this one is very different. “I am an actor and performer so I just love being challenged,” she said. “Even though I am not dancing as much, or even singing as much, there are so many more challenges with the character and it’s a really beautiful experience.
“I would say that this show is very close to my heart, I am having a wonderful time and it is very special to be an English actor in a Scottish play full of Scottish people. I am really excited to head up to Scotland to see how the vibe is up there.”
With iconic music by The Proclaimers, Jocasta explained how Sunshine On Leith differs from what people refer to as a jukebox musical. “Where lots of musicals have songs fitted into the show, the writer has done a fantastic job at writing the story around the songs which I think is so important,” she said. “It just means that there isn’t a song that just comes out of nowhere, it is all about telling a story and pushing that narrative forward.” Emphasising that the arrangement of the music is completely different and feels really fresh and different from any another musical theatre production.
“More than any other show I’ve done, it is a show about real people,” Jocasta explained. “Whether it is being with someone that doesn’t feel the same way, or having someone in your family fall ill and the stresses of that, or best friends falling out or wanting to travel, there is so much within this show that the audience can relate to.”
Jocasta researched into her role and found similarities with herself, as Yvonne moved away from her family to work as a nurse in Edinburgh, Jocasta did the same when she moved to London to pursue her theatre career. Drawing on these human experiences is what makes Sunshine On Leith a show that is connecting with audiences across the country.
“It’s such an upbeat, fun show but with real stories about real people,” Jocasta said. “There are real ups and down and it’s like this show is like electricity, it is always boiling and there is always something going on. It takes you up to the highest joys and then bring you right down to raw emotion.”
Sunshine On Leith is currently on a UK tour and arrives at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry on the 6th of June, tickets and information can be found online here.