It’s 16 years since Sunshine on Leith was originally staged at Dundee Rep before being transformed into the 2013 smash hit feature film adaptation starring Jane Horrocks and Peter Mullan.
Set to the classic songs of the much-loved The Proclaimers, including “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), “Letter from America” and of course the emotive “Sunshine on Leith”, a brand-new production of the play is now on for winter at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, following a version in summer 2022.
But while actor Finlay Bain, who plays the lead role of Ally, was a fan of The Proclaimers growing up, he knew little about the play until taking on the Pitlochry role.
“Obviously being Scottish it’s part of our DNA to have had exposure to the brilliant music by The Proclaimers,” he said.
“But while I’ve done pantos and stuff in the past, this is my first musical.
“I wasn’t truly aware of Sunshine on Leith.
“So when I got to auditioning for it, the first thing I had to do was read the script.
“I watched the film as well which I thought was really good.
“Then playing the music while reading the script as well, I thought it tied in really nicely.
“Stephen Greenhorn’s just done a phenomenal job creating that sort of real story and placing the songs so well within it.”
Did Sunshine on Leith star Finlay always want to be an actor?
Finlay, 33, grew up in Edinburgh and East Lothian.
He’d secured a university place to study film, media and journalism.
But while on a gap year in Australia, he had “quite a last minute sliding doors moment” over a pint with his brother when he realised he should pursue a career in theatre instead.
Trained at Birmingham School of Acting, he wrote, produced and performed in ‘Living a Little’ with his theatre company Riot House Theatre at the Vault festival.
There it won the Origins Award for Outstanding New Work, and then transferred to The King’s Head Theatre, then to Underbelly at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Theatre credits includes ‘The Straw Chair’, at The Finborough Theatre, ‘Trainspotting Live’ UK Tour, ‘The Flouers o’ Edinburgh’ at The Finborough Theatre and National Theatre of Scotland’s touring production of ‘Black Watch’.
He has recently starred as the lead role in the feature film, ‘Meet You in Scotland’ produced by Reel One Entertainment.
But he’s excited to be playing Ally in Sunshine on Leith – and it helps that he enjoys the music.
How many Proclaimers songs was the Sunshine on Leith star familiar with?
“Maybe I didn’t know some of the less known songs,” he said, adding that he once did an acoustic guitar set of 500 Miles during a power cut while best man at his best pal’s wedding.
“But if you haven’t sung out loud some of the more famous songs at some point on a night out, you’ve probably not had the full Scottish experience!
“You can’t really get away from it which I think is a great thing – whether at weddings, big sporting occasions as well.
“Even during lockdown there was the videos of people in Leith Walk all singing Sunshine on Leith together.
“It’s not going away!”
Was it easy for Finlay to ‘connect’ with his Sunshine on Leith character?
Sunshine on Leith sees service members Davy and Ally return from war overseas, to be confronted with civilian life relationships, blind dates, and new responsibilities.
As the pair embark on intertwining journeys of love, they begin to question what home really means to them as they rediscover their sense of identity.
Finlay says he finds it “quite easy” to connect with Ally’s character.
He finds him a “cheeky but likeable guy”.
“He’s got a good heart, really good intentions and he just wants that – if not traditional – but sort of that dream of settling down,” said Finlay.
“He’s done his bit in the Army.
“For me, he’s really great from an acting point of view as well because he goes on quite an emotional journey.”
What’s it been like working with the Pitlochry Festival Theatre team?
Finlay said this is his first time working with the Pitlochry Festival Theatre team.
He says working with them has been “great”.
Director Elizabeth Newman has given them “lots of space to take risks and play around and experiment”.
The musical director, meanwhile, has been making sure they “do the music justice and hit all the right notes” while carrying the story through as part of the flow.
“Stephen Greenhorn’s just done a phenomenal job creating that sort of real story and placing the songs so well within it,” he added.
“I’m a firm believer that if the audience see you are enjoying playing the role, playing the part, singing the songs, then they feed into that and it helps them access it and enjoy it themselves.
“It’s joyous and about real Scottish people and their stories and things”.
Other cast members include Robbie Scott as Davy; Sinead Kenny as Yvonne; Keith Macpherson as Rab; Alyson Orr as Jean; Jessica Dives as Eilidh; Fiona Wood as Liz; and Charlotte Grayson as Hazel.
The cast is completed by Trudy War; Jake Reynolds and Royal Conservatoire of Scotland graduates Callum Marshall and James Dawoud.
Originally conceived last year in partnership with Capital Theatres, Sunshine on Leith opened at Pitlochry Festival Theatre on November 17 and runs until December 23.
How to get tickets for Sunshine on Leith
Tickets are available from the box office on 01796 484626 or online