Book: Carol Harrison
Music & Lyrics: The Small Faces
Director: Carol Harrison
Originating Director: Tony McHale
Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys
A guitar smashes, someone storms off stage and so starts the story of seminal Mod band The Small Faces.
Following in the footsteps of the Kinks’ musical Sunny Afternoon, All or Nothing capitalises on the wave of nostalgia for 60s bands, and covers the four short, turbulent years (1965-1969) from the band’s inception to frontman Steve Marriott’s departure, leaving the story of his replacement, (Rod Stewart) and reinvention as The Faces, for another show.
Narrated by an older incarnation of Marriott (Chris Simmons), the show retains the raw, rough-at-the-edges quality of the band whose story it tells. The story is depressingly familiar to fans of 60s music: exploitation, both financially and artistically by their management (in this case by Don Arden, famously the father of Sharon Osborne); gruelling schedules of endless touring and promotion, drugs, disappointment and creative differences. Along the way, there are cameos from musical contemporaries Dusty Springfield, Sonny and Cher, and Marriott’s one-time girlfriend P.P. Arnold as well as the word-mangling Stanley Unwin and Tony Blackburn.
The anger and swagger of the participants are well represented here, Marriott famously decrying Lennon and McCartney’s output as “Merseybeat girl music.” Described as a band that ‘looked sharp and sounded even sharper,’ the quality of the ‘band’ is critical to the show’s success. There’s a gig-like atmosphere throughout that adds an extra element of realism to the proceedings. The central quartet (Samuel Pope, Stanton Wright, Stefan Edwards and Josh Maddison) is completely on-point, and the group’s signature sound bounces off of the walls of the auditorium. The only gripe would be that we don’t hear enough of it. However, to its credit, the story doesn’t bend to fit the band’s hits. Instead, they occur naturally throughout the narrative.
All or Nothing is a highly detailed biography of a band that came from “bomb sites with no bathrooms,” and no stone is unturned in telling their story. However, it does result in a long set up and the sacrificing of some pace.
This bittersweet, raw, visceral show is a long overdue homage to a band that has sometimes been cruelly overlooked and a fitting tribute to not only Steve Marriott but Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones, early member Jimmy Winston and Ian McLagan. Both long-time fans and those unfamiliar will be satisfied and it’s a welcome change from the fluff-filled, happy-ever-after jukebox musicals of old.
Runs until 15 April 2017 | Image: Contributed