Month: June 2022

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande


Cineworld, Edinburgh


I accept that ‘hmm’ isn’t the most promising of openings to a film review, but it’s the best I can muster for the inelegantly titled Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, directed by Sophie Hyde. It’s possibly the most mixed bag of a movie ever, with lots to admire – but lots to wince at too.

Emma Thompson, of course, falls into the former category. She’s a terrific actor. Here, she’s playing Nancy, a retired widow with a mission: to have an orgasm. A former RE teacher, Nancy has only ever had boring sex with her husband. Now he’s dead, but she’s still alive, and she’s determined not to waste the time she has left. The answer? A sex worker. Enter the titular Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack), purveyor of fantasies at an hourly rate.

But can Nancy let go enough to, well… let herself go?

We find out via a series of encounters, all in the same bland hotel room, although the focus is usually on what happens around the sex – the conversations and revelations that occur as Nancy negotiates the minefield of paid-for physical contact.

Katy Brand’s script is agonisingly funny in places: she nails Nancy’s ‘oh so British’ embarrassment, her tendency to overthink out loud, to chatter her discomfort. Thompson clearly revels in these moments, and – as a character study – the film is a roaring success. It’s also bold in its addressing of an older woman’s sexuality. The tone is set early on, when Leo describes Nigella Lawson as “sexy”. Nancy waits for him to add the obligatory “for her age” but Leo demurs. “She’s empirically sexy,” he says. And, over time, Nancy learns to like her own body too, to stop apologising for her tummy and her saggy boobs, to accept herself the way she is.

McCormack is a relative newcomer, but it seems likely he’s a big career ahead. The camera loves him, and he embodies the role well, slowly revealing the steel behind the soft exterior. “I’m who you want me to be,” says Leo, perfectly fulfilling his contract – but his boundaries are clear, and he’s protective of his ‘real’ self.

There is some attempt to deal with ethical issues, but this feels a little glib. Nancy talks about the essay she used to set her students: ‘Should sex work be legalised?’ She mentions trafficking and violence against female sex workers. Leo tells her her enjoys his work, that he doesn’t want to be painted as a ‘poor little orphan’ to suit someone else’s conscience. They reach an uneasy consensus, agreeing that sex therapy should be available ‘from the council’ (though heaven knows what that would be like). And I know it’s a complex subject, that sex workers often object to being cast as victims, when many of them have agency and choice – and who am I to tell them that they’re wrong – but I don’t think this gives us carte blanche to ignore the exploitation and misery that undeniably exists as well. And Leo is so very clean-cut that the whole thing appears curiously unsexy, so wholesome that it seems to be in denial about the gritty physicality involved. This version of sex work is not so much glamourised as defanged.

So, ‘hmm’ it is. I enjoy watching Leo Grande but I’m unconvinced by it. And if you’re a teacher? Maybe don’t tell your ex-pupils about your sex life. It’s not empowering; it’s just weird.

3 stars

Susan Singfield



Cineworld, Edinburgh

Nobody ever goes to a Baz Luhrmann film expecting subtlety – and indeed, from its opening scene onwards, Elvis is a big, brash, noisy exploration of the late singer’s life and times. It’s also an excoriating account of the Faustian deal he made with his manager, the odious ‘Colonel’ Tom Parker, that would keep Presley effectively shackled to him throughout his career. But make no mistake, the ensuing events provide a thrilling cinematic journey that powers through two hours and thirty-nine minutes at an invigorating gallop, flinging out dazzling visual flourishes and exciting musical routines as it goes. Some reviewers have complained about the film’s lack of ‘authenticity,’ but they’re surely missing the point. This is as much about Elvis’s legend as it is about his life.

We start in 1997, at the hospital bed of Parker (Tom Hanks, looking very convincingly fleshed out), who assures us that he has played no part in the untimely death of his most famous client. We then flash back in time to see Parker’s first encounter with Presley (Austin Butler) at a Hayride event in 1955, where the young singer’s onstage gyrations drive the local teenage girls into hysterics. Parker, a long established fairground huckster, smells an opportunity to make money – and promptly signs Presley up to a punishing contract.

Soon enough, Presley is selling records by the millions and can move his beloved mother, Gladys (Helen Thompson), and his ineffectual father, Vernon (Richard Roxburgh), into the big house that will become Graceland. Super-stardom beckons but Parker is determined that whatever transpires must happen on his terms – and all that sexy hip swivelling is drawing too much criticism, as is Elvis’s habit of hanging out with black musicians and assimilating their music into his own routines. Parker is all for dialling down the unbridled sexuality that brought Elvis to the public’s attention in the first place and turning him into a ‘family’ entertainer, but Presley is understandably reluctant to lose his edge…

Elvis is built around two outstanding performances. Hanks is wonderfully slimy as the manipulative Colonel Tom, playing his snake-oil charm to the hilt, but it’s Butler who deserves most of the praise, taking on the near impossible task of personifying an icon and succeeding on just about every level. He may not look exactly like Presley, but he somehow manages to nail the man’s persona and this goes way beyond impersonation, so much so that footage of the real Presley can be slipped in toward’s the film’s conclusion without causing a ripple.

I fully expect an Oscar nomination in due course.

With the passage of time, it’s easy to forget just how repressed and racist America was in the 1950s and the cataclysmic effect that Presley’s arrival had on popular culture. This serves as an eloquent reminder, sweeping us up and dropping us headfirst into those exhilarating waters. It becomes an increasingly heartbreaking journey; nevertheless, Luhrmann’s film serves as a powerful tribute to its illustrious subject. I describe few films as ‘unmissable’ but this one definitely qualifies.

4.6 stars

Philip Caveney

The Black Phone


Cineworld, Edinburgh

After stepping away from Marvel’s Dr Strange franchise, director Scott Derrickson turns his attention to something entirely different. The Black Phone is a smaller scale project, filmed during lockdown, and is all the more powerful for its tight focus. Derrickson’s screenplay is based on a short story by Joe Hill. Set in Colorado in the 1970s, the grubby, hardscrabble lifestyle of the community in which the story unfolds is convincingly evoked through Brett Jutkiewicz’s stylised cinematography. Be warned, this is a visceral, uncompromising tale that’s not for the faint-hearted.

Finney (Mason Thames) is a teenage boy, struggling to come to terms with a high school that’s dominated by punch-happy alpha males, while simultaneously suffering the brutal ministrations of his alcoholic father, Terrence (Jeremy Davis), who has never properly recovered from his wife’s suicide. Finney’s younger sister, Gwen (Madeleine McGraw), also comes in for beatings from Terrence and is prone to having mysterious dreams, which seem to offer clues to the identity of ‘The Grabber,’ a local boogie man who has been kidnapping young boys from the area over a long period.

No trace of his victims has ever been found.

And then, inevitably, Finney himself falls prey to The Grabber (Ethan Hawke) and finds himself locked up in a dingy basement, awaiting an unknown fate. On the wall beside his mattress is the titular phone. It’s out of use, the wire cut through and yet it has an unnerving tendency to ring from time to time – and whenever he answers, Finney finds that the voices on the other end of the line are eerily familiar…

It would be impossible to relate more of the plot without giving away massive spoilers, but suffice to say this is a tale of survival, where Finney must pit his wits against his captor. Derrickson has the good sense to devote plenty of time to character development before the abduction occurs, which means I’m already rooting for Finney and Gwen by the time it happens – and it also helps that the two young leads are so appealing. Hawke submits an uncannily powerful performance as the villain, considering he spends most of the film half-hidden by a series of bizarre face masks. The sense of dread throughout the story is palpable. The jump-cut is a regular narrative device in this kind of film, but there are some here that are so impeccably timed they have me almost out of my seat on a couple of occasions.

The overall atmosphere is enhanced by a kicking 70s soundtrack and I’m particularly impressed by a lengthy sequence based around Pink Floyd’s On the Run – I suspect that Derrickson has been waiting a very long time for the opportunity to deploy it, but for me it’s one of the film’s high points.

This won’t be to everyone’s taste. Those who deplore screen violence will be sorely tested by many of the scenes unflinchingly depicted here, but if nothing else, The Black Phone offers an encouraging escape from the slice-and-dice mundanity that has dominated the horror genre for far too long.

My advice? Buckle in and give it a whirl.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney



Cineworld, Edinburgh

After the recent disappointment of watching Pixar’s latest releases on the small screen, it’s great to see one back in its natural home – but my delight is somewhat dulled by the fact that this is a prequel to their super-successful Toy Story franchise. What’s more, what’s happened to the practice of showing a new short film before every feature? I hope that returns.

The film begins with a title card reminding us that, in the original story, Buzz Lightyear was an action-figure inspired by a movie, and we are about to watch that movie.

Here, Buzz (voiced by Chris Evans, replacing Tim Allen for no explicable reason) is a Space Ranger in Star Command, who, when we first encounter him, is exploring habitable planet T’kani Prime with his commander, Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) – but his miscalculation while trying to escape the hostile life-forms that live there leaves him marooned, along with the huge crew aboard his ship. The only possible method of escape requires Buzz to fly at hyperspeed, something he repeatedly tries to do, but each trip he makes means that, though he remains the same age, everybody else ages by years.

The film’s early stages are expertly piloted, alternating suspenseful skirmishes and cliffhangers with moments of real poignancy and, needless to say, the animation throughout is sumptuous. As ever there are some wonderful characterisations here. ‘Empathy feline robot’ Sox (Peter Sohn) is a particular delight, and the fact that Alisha is gay and that she and her partner have a child is so perfectly handled, I start to think that we’re on a perfect trajectory for another Pixar triumph.

But around the halfway stage, a mysterious villain called The Emporer Zurg (James Brolin) arrives on T’kani with battalions of Zyclops robots under his command, while Buzz finds himself reluctantly teaming up with Alisha’s daughter, Izzy (Keke Palmer). Suddenly everything starts to feel much more generic and, it must be said, far too complicated for its own good. If I struggle with the labyrinthine twists of the timey-wimey adventures that ensue, God only knows what the battalions of school kids occupying the front row seats make of them.

There’s an interesting reveal towards the film’s conclusion but, by this time, too much impetus has been lost to save the project. This is a shame, because that first half demonstrates that the team at Pixar can make the most inauspicious vehicle fly, even if – as in this case – they can’t make it stay the distance.

3.4 stars

Philip Caveney




I have high hopes of this comedy-horror, where the feminist sub-text is right there on the surface. It promises to be a ‘fresh’ take on a well-worn trope, written and directed by two women (Lauryn Kahn and Mimi Cave respectively). So imagine my disappointment when I find myself watching an all-too familiar extended sequence: a beautiful young woman chained up in a cruel madman’s basement, crying and begging for her freedom. Surely I can’t be alone in thinking that it’s not enough to subvert the ending (spoiler: it’s not a man who saves the day)? That, actually, you can’t make a valid point about the exploitation of women by exploiting them further? Or that a film that lingers unironically on images of women’s suffering loses its claim to be a fucking comedy?

It starts off promisingly. Okay, so it’s not exactly subtle. Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is single and sick of the dating scene. We see her out with a cartoonish man, all wafting scarf and pronouncements about how women just aren’t as feminine as they used to be. It’s mildly amusing: recognisably awful, but also (whisper) a bit hack. Later, she texts another guy, who immediately sends her a dick pic. Maybe love just isn’t for her, she tells her best pal, Mollie (Jojo T Gibbs). But then she meets Steve (Sebastian Stan), who seems too good to be true. He’s sweet, polite, engaging, kind.

And yeah, too good to be true. Because Steve is a cannibal, who butchers women. It’s an obvious metaphor for the romance meat market – and, sadly, the film’s charm wears off as quickly as Steve’s. The lengthy pre-credit sequence hints at something gentle and quirky; what follows is almost gore-by-numbers, albeit with some gorgeous cinematography (by Pawel Pogorzelski) and a banging 80s soundtrack.

Ach, I don’t know. It makes me weary. I hated rape-revenge movies The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Elle for the same reason: I don’t want to watch women being victimised, and then emerging, brutalised, to re-enact the same violence against men. That’s not redemption; it’s having your steak and eating it: a tone-deaf definition of a ‘strong woman’ – and we shouldn’t let the film-makers off the hook. Emerald Fennell nails feminist vengeance in Promising Young Woman, proving it can be done.

That’s not to say there’s nothing good about this film. The actors are all impressive, although Gibbs is criminally under-used as Mollie (of course she is, because Mollie is black and gay, only ever destined for a sidekick role alongside the straight, white heroine). I like the device of setting up Paul (Dayo Okeniyi) as a potential hero, and then deflating that hope. Stan is well-cast as the killer, plausibly likeable, so that his success in charming Noa seems credible enough. The initial meat-packing sequences are wonderfully stylised, hinting at the better movie this could have been.

In many ways, the whole thing works better as an analogy for farming, where animals live in captivity, and where ‘kindness’ only extends as far as keeping them warm and fed so that they’re tender and disease-free when we come to eat them. That’s not the intended message, but it’s the one I’m taking home.

This movie just doesn’t work for me: the ‘comedy’ never raises more than a small smile, and the ‘horror’ is nasty rather than scary. Sadly, in the end, Fresh is more than a little bit stale.

2.2 stars

Susan Singfield

The Midwich Cuckoos


Now TV

I first encountered the novels of John Wyndham while still at school. I started, like many others, with The Day of the Triffids and remember being blown away by the sheer inventiveness of it. Wyndham’s ‘home counties disaster’ genre was unlike anything I’d ever read before. And then I picked up a copy of The Midwich Cuckoos, which again had an inspired idea at its heart and was deliciously creepy.

It’s not surprising that the movies soon got in on the action. Cuckoos was first filmed in 1960 as Village of the Damned, only two years after the novel’s release. It’s a bold move to attempt to bring Wyndham’s story up to date, but this seven part series from Sky Max, created and written by David Farr, does a pretty good job of it.

Keely Hawes stars as psychologist Dr Susannah Zellaby, struggling to connect with her daughter, Cassie (Synnove Karlsen), who has a history of poor mental health and drug abuse. On a rare trip into London, Susannah is horrified to hear of a mystifying occurrence in her home village of Midwich. After a sudden, inexplicable loss of power, everybody in the village falls unconscious at the same moment. When they wake, twenty-four hours later, it’s to the bizarre discovery that every female resident – including Cassie – has fallen pregnant. Susannah finds herself increasingly drawn into working with the initially bewildered new mothers.

The government quickly moves in to keep the event a closely guarded secret. As time moves on, the babies are born and it’s soon becomes apparent that these are no ordinary children. They grow faster than they ought to, they demonstrate learning abilities beyond their years and, it transpires, they have a collective ‘hive’ consciousness. If something happens to one of them, the rest know about it instantly. And they are very, VERY protective of each other.

The Midwich depicted here is entirely believable: a middle-class, middle-income suburb, populated by characters who are fleshed out beyond the usual stereotypes. The production team have wisely moved away from the blonde-haired Village of the Damned kids and created something entirely different – and the creepiness of the source novel is effectively conveyed, the young actors exuding their sinister presence. Resident police officer Paul Haynes (Max Beesley), who ironically lost his pregnant wife during the blackout, has the unenviable task of attempting to make sense of it all, while also establishing a relationship with his wife’s sister, Jodie (Lara Rossi), and the strange boy she has given birth to.

Plaudits should go to the four cinematographers who filmed the lush, sun-drenched locations, which contrast effectively with the eerie sci-fi elements, making them all the more powerful. The story builds effectively over seven episodes to a suspenseful – and quite cold-blooded – climax. I’m slightly perturbed by the fact that this is referred to as ‘Season 1.’ I seriously doubt there’s much more to say about this story, but of course, Village of the Damned had its own (inferior) sequel back in the day and perhaps it’s inevitable that more will follow.

For now, this makes for the perfect binge-watch.

4.4 stars

Philip Caveney

Green Island Bistro


High Street, Rhuddlan

Take one small-ish Welsh village (population <4000). Add six hungry people seeking lunch. Factor in a vegan, a vegetarian, some lactose intolerance and a wheelchair. Expectation: we’ll need to drive somewhere. Reality: the answer is on my parents’ doorstep. Almost literally.

Green Island Bistro opened in October 2020, an inauspicious time to launch a new venture, what with COVID and all its attendant chaos. But owner Sarah Turner clearly welcomes a challenge. Sure, plant-based diets are all the rage, but still – are there really enough vegans here (even part-time ones) to make this work? It turns out the answer is a resounding yes, as evidenced by the tiny eatery’s Best Café/Bistro in North Wales award.

Things get off to a good start early in the morning, when Sarah sends me a detailed message in response to my query about wheelchair access. It’s the kind of thoughtful approach that lets you know this is someone who really cares about customer satisfaction and wants to get it right. She includes photos of both exterior and interior seating, and a close-up of the small step that leads inside. Dad’s impressed, and reassured that his needs will be met.

Tucked behind Rejuva beauty salon, next door to the King’s Head Pub, Green Island Bistro has space for just sixteen covers inside, but there’s a sweet little courtyard too, which can seat the same number again. It’s not especially warm today though, so we opt to go indoors. The reception is relaxed and friendly; we’re immediately at ease.

Only one of us is actually a vegan, so the rest of us are expecting to feel the weight of compromise, but the short menu looks interesting, and we all find something that sounds good.

Both I and my sister-in-law opt for the daily special, which is a seitan kebab – and really enjoy it. The flatbread is clearly home-made, and the seitan (which I’ve never tried before) has a lovely savoury flavour, and a pleasingly firm texture. There’s also a spicy sauce, which adds a welcome hit. Philip and my mum have the hoisin duck flatbread, and are delighted with it. Philip says he can’t taste the difference between this and ‘real duck’ – and he likes the way it’s presented too, on an impossibly long board. My brother – our favourite vegan – has the cheese platter. He acknowledges that he’s taking a risk because some vegan cheeses are beyond the pale, but these four are all delicious. I sample one to check, and he’s not wrong. It’s like a cross between cheese and hummus, and a real pleasure to eat. That just leaves dad, who has a baked potato with vegan cheese and beans. They’re all simple dishes, but they’re perfectly executed, and we’re happy with what we’ve had.

Of course we have pudding, sampling a warm chocolate brownie with ice cream, a chocolate fondue, some lemon drizzle cake and a gluten free carrot cake. The cakes and the fondue are beautifully made and presented. We’re not super keen on the ice cream: it tastes nice, but we don’t especially like the texture. Still, it’s a very minor quibble, all things considered.

We have some drinks too. I have my first ever espresso martini. It won’t be my last. The menu also boasts bottled beers, a few nice wines, and a range of coffees and soft drinks – and we put a fair few away between us.

We’re impressed. Green Island Bistro ticks all the boxes, and we’ll certainly be back for more.

4.6 stars

Susan Singfield

All My Friends Hate Me


Cameo Cinema, Edinburgh

What do you do when a joke goes too far? When does humour turn to cruelty? And at what point do you need to speak out when your friends are making you unhappy? These questions are cleverly addressed in All My Friends Hate Me. Written by Tom Stourton and Tom Palmer, and directed by Andrew Gaynord, this dark comedy is a slippery exercise in steadily-mounting paranoia.

Pete (Stourton) is about to turn thirty-one and is proud of the work he’s been doing at an overseas refugee camp – and which he’s prone to mention at every opportunity. He’s also considering proposing to his partner, Sonia (Charlie Clive), but first there’s the little matter of an invitation he’s had from his old university chum, George (Joshua McGuire), to go to his swanky house in the country for a long weekend of celebration with the rest of the old uni crew. Sonia is tied up with work, but promises to follow him down later, so Pete gets into his car and sets off with high hopes for a memorable birthday.

Well, it’s certainly that, but for all the wrong reasons.

From the very beginning, things go wrong for him. He gets lost near to his destination and asks for directions from the creepy Norman (Christopher Fairbank, looking suitably sepulchral); he has a misadventure with a man sleeping rough in a car; and, when he finally reaches George’s house, he’s dismayed by what he finds.

His friends have invited a mysterious stranger along. Harry (Dustin Demri-Burns) is somebody they’ve ‘met in the pub,’ and he turns out to be quite obnoxious. As the weekend proceeds, Pete – who is socially anxious at the best of times – is subjected to a barrage of practical jokes, hurtful comments and mysterious encounters. Somebody seems to have stolen the herbal pills he takes to keep himself calm – and why does Harry keep writing down things in a little book?

Everything that happens is seen from Pete’s point of view – we share his discomfort every step of the way. One of the guests is Claire (Antonia Clarke), his old flame from college days, and people can’t seem to stop mentioning the fact. Pete hopes things will improve when Sonia finally shows up, but she dutifully arrives – and they don’t.

The ensuing misadventures are by turns toe-curling, darkly funny, deeply embarrassing and occasionally genuinely frightening. I love that the creators of this film steadfastly refuse to take things into the realms of the unbelievable. A Hollywood version of the same story would likely have ventured into bloodshed, mayhem and revenge, but this is all the stronger for avoiding that.

Astute, credible and – at times – even horribly familiar, All My Friends Hate Me keeps me hooked right up to its final unsettling moment. Those planning a birthday celebration away from home may want to wait until after they’ve returned before watching this. Because, well… just because people say they’re your friends, it doesn’t mean they really are.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney

Laurel & Hardy


Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

The central figures of the Lyceum’s latest production are incredibly familiar. Their expressive faces and distinctive costumes are known to people who weren’t even born when they were strutting their stuff. In the opening moments of this affectionate play, Stan & Ollie wander onto a grey stage that looks like a representation of limbo, and are quick to remind us that they are now dead (something they’re not particularly happy about) and that it’s high time the public knew about the real men behind their onscreen personas.

It’s ironic then, that the late Tom McGrath’s play, first performed at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre in 1976, goes on to tell us very little about their actual lives. There are snippets, told rather than shown, but we see very little of the genesis of these two great comedians, the influences that shaped them as they grew up.

There’s no doubting the authenticity of the performances. Barnaby Power (Stan) and Steven McNicoll (Ollie) are revisiting roles they debuted at the Lyceum back in 2005 and claim that that have relished the opportunity to revisit Stan & Ollie now they are older themselves. They have clearly studied every tic, every mannerism, every nuance of the titular duo. Accompanied by pianist/straight man, Jon Beales, they dutifully run through some of their most iconic scenes. But perhaps it’s possible to be too comfortable in reprised roles.

Laurel and Hardy’s greatest secret was that they made it all look so easy. Considerable effort came disguised as a walk in the park, but it was in there, hiding in plain sight. The comics’ physicality was always disguised by their meticulous timing.

Tonight, something feels a little off. It’s a little too polite, too mannered. There are ripples of laughter from the audience, but not the helpless guffaws you might expect – and while the recreations of past triumphs occasionally jolt into life (a silent-movie sequence animated by the flicker of strobes is a particular highlight), they just as often play out without making enough impact, as though the two actors are simply walking through the action.

Power and McNicholl occasionally have to step out of their main roles to portray other figures from the period, but there’s little to differentiate them and, once again, I am left wanting to know more – about the things we’ve never seen onscreen. Furthermore, it’s also true to say that some of the lines, which may have passed muster in the 1970s (or, indeed, the 1940s), don’t fly too well in this day and age. “How do you keep a married man at home? Break his legs.” Hmm.

Hardline Laurel & Hardy fans will doubtless have fun with this. As an impersonation of two great comedians, it is well executed – but as an occasional fan of their work, I am left wanting to know much more about them.

Laurel & Hardy may run like clockwork – but it doesn’t say enough about what made them tick.

3 stars

Philip Caveney

Sunshine on Leith


King’s Theatre, Edinburgh

In Edinburgh, you’re never more than six feet away from a Proclaimer. Or, at least, from someone proclaiming their love for the Proclaimers. The affection is well-deserved. Craig and Charlie Reid are responsible for a multitude of absolute bangers: deceptively simple tunes, combining heart and anger, warmth and sadness. It was inevitable someone would say, ‘Hey, we could make a musical from these.’ (Cue: Stephen Greenhorn.) And equally inevitable that the resulting project would be a hit, a regular on stage since its 2007 debut, with a successful film adaptation to boot.

So there are no surprises here. We’re familiar with the show; of course we are. Nonetheless, there’s a palpable thrill in the air, because we know we’re in for a treat. This two-venue production – co-directed by Elizabeth Newman and Ben Occhipinti – is laden with symbolism: the first show since Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s revamp, and the last before Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre closes for its own refurbishment. It’s the perfect choice for both, a celebration of Scottish talent and a love song to the people of Caledonia.

There’s a low-key, homespun ambience, which works well, creating a sense of familiarity between the performers and the audience. There are no flamboyant costumes here, no fancy pyrotechnics. Instead, like the Proclaimers’ songs, it’s quietly clever – no showing off. The band doubles as the ensemble, and they appear to be a happy team, grinning at one another and at us, and vibing unselfconsciously. There are no barriers, which cements that feeling of intimacy, enabling us to empathise with the characters. This is no mean feat in a large, traditional theatre like the King’s, with its proscenium arch and imposing loges, all designed to accentuate the separation of stage and auditorium. It’s really very impressive.

The story is a Willy Russell-esque account of working-class life, told with affection and a strong sense of place. Ally and Davy (Keith Jack and Connor Going) are back in Leith, having been honourably discharged from the army, just in time for Davy’s parents’ thirtieth wedding anniversary party. Ally’s been going out with Davy’s sister for years, and he’s hoping now’s the time to settle down, but Liz (Blythe Jandoo) isn’t quite ready for that. She’s been stuck at home while he’s been away, and she’s restless, keen to stretch her wings. Her nursing pal, Yvonne (Rhiane Drummond), meanwhile, has fallen for Davy – and what is Davy’s dad, Rab (Keith Macpherson), hiding from his wife, Jean (Alyson Orr)? It’s a simple tale, but surprisingly affecting, and I find myself tearing up on more than one occasion. No spoilers, but the line “Because they wanted me” just hits me every time, and Orr’s rendition of the titular song is genuinely heartbreaking.

Adrian Rees’ set looks great. A miniaturised Edinburgh skyline is mounted on stilts, while the action occurs below – a neat representation of Leith and Edinburgh, the city looming over the town. There are ladders leading up to Blackford Hill; from here, we join the characters looking down on their home turf, trying to get a handle on their place in the world. The set comes apart, so that sections can be moved to create walls, but this is a distraction for me. It seems unnecessary and, although the transitions are thoughtfully choreographed, there’s too much clutter and stage traffic for very little gain.

In the end, this is all about the music (directed by Richard Reeday), and it’s a fabulous combination of the raucous and the refined. There are some issues with the sound – mics occasionally cutting out, and some imbalance between the vocals and the instrumentals – but none of it really detracts from the serious talent on display.

Sunshine on Leith has a relatively long run, so you’ve got until the 18th June to catch it here in Edinburgh – and to say “bye the nou” to the Old Lady of Leven Street.

4.3 stars

Susan Singfield