All or Nothing – 4 Stars

Nothing

All or Nothing

Arts Theatre

Reviewed – 9th February 2018

★★★★

“this tight production proves itself worthy of this London run”

 

For people of a certain age, the sixties will be fondly remembered. From innovative technologies, the space race, war and protest to changing attitudes to fashion, politics and music,  it was arguably the most transformative decade of modern times.

Music wise whilst The Beatles were the biggest selling UK artists, over in East London four young lads with a love of American R&B music formed a band that enjoyed chart success during four eventful years from 1965 to 1969. All or Nothing – The Mod Musical celebrates the story and unique sound of The Small Faces and also plays homage to the fashions and pop celebrities of the time. Writer and cast performer Carol Harrison has diligently researched the band’s history and the show takes the audience on their journey from obscurity to demise. Their path to success is met with exploitation, betrayal and tragedy.

At the centre of the show is Steve Marriott and we see two versions of him. Older Steve, who appears unseen to others as a spirit, narrates the story from his point of view with both fondness and regret. Chris Simmons is quite brilliant in this role and we see his character gradually disintegrate as the show progresses. His storytelling is a guide to those without knowledge of the band’s history. Young Steve is played by Samuel Pope who accurately recreates the powerful singing voice and aggressive guitar approach Marriott was known for.

The story begins with the band’s final show at the Alexandra Palace when halfway through the set Marriott famously threw his guitar down and walked off stage. We are then taken back in time to his childhood with his venture onto the London stage as a child star in Oliver through to him forming his own band. The band’s naive ambition is exploited by Sharon Osbourne’s father Don Arden, who became their manager. Arden achieved notoriety in Britain for his aggressive, sometimes illegal business tactics. One scene shows him and an associate dangling impresario Robert Stigwood from an office window as a warning to ‘teach him a lesson’ for daring to discuss a change of management with the Small Faces. 

Despite Arden’s insistence that they produce catchy financially profitable pop songs they were true to their roots and had a number of hits that include Itchycoo Park, Tin Soldier, Lazy Sunday, Sha La La La Lee and All or Nothing that are accurately performed in this show. In 1968 they released their third and number one selling concept album Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake which on side two told the story of Happiness Stan, narrated in his unique Unwinese goggledegook by Stanley Unwin.

It has taken a lot of hard work to get this show to the West End. From Brighton Beach in 2013 to the London launch at The Vaults and three major countrywide tours, this tight production proves itself worthy of this London run. Whilst Marriott is the main focus there are notable supporting roles. Stanton Wright as bassist Ronnie Lane, Stefan Edwards as drummer Kenney Jones and Alexander Gold as organist Ian McLagan are competent musicians in their own right and faithfully recreate the Small Faces energy and sound.

Daniel Beales takes on many roles including Tony Blackburn (which got many cheers) and Stanley Unwin. Russell Floyd also takes on several roles and is menacing as Don Arden. Karis Anderson is one of Marriott’s love interests and takes centre stage in the role of PP Arnold revealing a beautiful singing voice in a brief but impressive cameo.

The cast make the most of a restricted stage area which has been brilliantly designed by Rebecca Brower and includes many pop art posters of the era. Costume designer Charlotte Espiner has put together some wonderful costumes that takes the audience back to those Mary Quant inspired designs.

It is clear that a lot of love and affection has been poured into this musical and the cast appear to enjoy themselves as much as the audience. Whilst the story is ultimately a sad one, those attending seemed to leave the theatre having had a great night out. So if you are a fan of the sixties, mod culture, the Small Faces or just want to know more about what happened in that decade this is a show for you. Book your seat and enjoy this powerhouse musical. And as Stanley Unwin would say ‘Are you all sitty comftybold two-square on your botty? Then I’ll begin’.

 

Reviewed by Steve Sparrow

Photography by Phil Weedon

 

Arts Theatre link

All or Nothing

Arts Theatre until 11th March

 

 

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