FOR a few seconds on Sunday I thought I was about to secure a bit of a world exclusive photo: a rare picture of Ray Davies smiling. He’s a bit of hero to me. I listen to a song by The Kinks most days. I actually think he should get even more credit for what his band achieved. He has helped tell our city’s story in sound, yet search ‘Ray Davies, grumpy’ on Google and you’ll see that he’s not much of a grinner. Instead, he often bears a thoughtful glaze, a worried frown or a sheepish smile.
When he gamely agreed to cut the 15th birthday cake for the Upstairs At The Gatehouse theatre after the matinee of Crazy For You, I thought I might be one of the first journalists to capture him in lighter mood. But it was the picture above which ended up on the front of today’s New Journal. It’s not the shot I thought I might get, but it kind of captures what I like about everybody at the theatre – and what I like about Ray.
There’s John and Katie Plews, the theatre’s managers and their daughters, who you will never not find in sparkling form, full of energy and enthusiasm, blowing out the candles. They have grown to be an important part of what makes Highgate village tick. Then there is Ray, hardly managing a whistle towards the cake. The wonderful old curmudgeon was instead there looking a little awkward, one hand in his pocket, as if caught dreaming in the middle of the larks.
I don’t know him, he seems shy. But, as I wrote in the New Journal, last year, his enigma is pretty fascinating. He’s more intriguing than Sir Macca. You’d never catch him puffing out his cheeks and flashing a v-for-victory signs. Again, I like that. Someone at the party later joked there was an extra faraway glaze because Arsenal were losing to Manchester City that afternoon. A gooner, another reason to like him.
Still, as I left starstruck by the man behind all those amazing Kinks songs, there were warm thoughts for the theatre too. Fifteen years, another milestone for one of London’s finest fringe theatres. You should go and see Crazy For You while it’s still on if you can. You can’t but wish the Plews family well for the next 15 years too.