Tag Archives: The Arts Theatre

All or Nothing – 4 Stars


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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Review of Bare Essentials – 3 Stars

Bare Essentials – New Writing

The Arts Theatre

Reviewed – 16th July 2017





“Less is More … “



Bare Essentials is essentially one of the most refreshing pieces of theatre to see in the heart of the West End. It aims to bring new writing to Theatreland, where exciting pieces of theatre are not only directed well, but also performed well.

Sometimes less is more, and this show is exactly that as there are no fancy sets, no flashing lights and no special effects. However, what makes Bare Essentials so special, is the incredible talent that is produced on such a minimalistic stage.

Bare Essentials

In under 2 hours, audiences were treated to 6 different performances, all lasting around 15 minutes and Stephen Kennedy’s ‘Should’ve Gone To Lourdes’, was a great way to start the show. The performance begins with two brothers arriving at a brothel in Amsterdam, where Chris is anxiously waiting for his appointment. He soon fears that things might not go according to plan as he is in a wheelchair, but his brother Brian reassures him and even jokes that he might get a discount because he’s disabled. Just before Chris goes in, his phone begins to ring and it is his Mum. Both boys begin to panic and Brian wonders if their mum has put a GPS tracker on Chris’s wheelchair.

This excellent piece of writing was outrageously funny and both actors, Eddie Usher and Edward Bell, performed brilliantly. This was very entertaining and it was a shame that it was only 15 minutes long. Bold, engaging, and funny, Kennedy’s hilarious new play has the potential to be very successful in the future.

Chekhov’s Gun written by Ben Beck, was not what I expected. Duncan Mason delivered an incredible performance as a young man who wanted to explore the possibilities of using a pistol on stage. He repeatedly said that the gun will be fired and someone in this theatre will die. Of course this didn’t happen, but Mason did an excellent job at convincing the audience that this could actually occur. What’s more, is that he soon begins to show concern over the shootings that have recently taken place in schools, malls and movie theatres, almost highlighting how horrific gun crime is in today’s society.

Towards the end of this piece, he puts the gun to his head and is soon dragged off stage, where a gunshot is then heard. Although this is very distressing and at times very uncomfortable to watch, Beck is highlighting a very important theme that needs to be addressed.

Roommates by Matthew Fowler was by far my favourite piece of the evening, as its clever concept, hilarious one-liners and brilliant acting made this very enjoyable to watch. Both Rebecca Hutchins and Phoebe Batteson-Brown, were excellent at playing unborn twins who were annoying each other in their mother’s womb. Molly reveals how she is fed up of her sister “hogging the placenta,” whilst Emily is annoyed at her sister for using the “umbilical cord as a skipping rope.” This hilarious play made me laugh from start to finish and I was very impressed with how well this was written. Being a twin myself, this certainly made me reminisce about the times my sister and I would deliberately wind each other up. Fowler has done an extraordinary job at writing such an innovative piece of theatre and deserves all the success that I’m sure this play will receive.

Overall, Bare Essentials is a great opportunity to see fresh new writing, where you can be laughing one minute and gasping at the next.

It’s definitely a show I will see again.


Reviewed by Jessica Brewer

Photography courtesy of Encompass Productions


Arts Theatre thespyinthestalls



was at The Arts Theatre on the 15th & 16th July


Bare Essentials thespyinthestalls




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