REVIEW: ALL OR NOTHING (Arts Theatre) ★★
After an extensive UK tour All or Nothing – The Mod Musical has been given a limited season in the West End at the Arts Theatre. The show – conceived by ex-Eastenders’ star Carol Harrison – is another crowd pleasing jukebox musical along the same lines as Sunny Afternoon (which featured the music of The Kinks), but this one tells the story of the 60s band The Small Faces. Sadly however, unlike its cleverly formulated predecessor, All or Nothing has ‘nothing’ very clever about its format and is painfully clichéd and poorly written.
Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones and Jimmy Winston formed the Small Faces in 1965. After becoming one of the most influential mod groups of the time they replaced Winston with Ian McLagan and went on to be one of the most successful 60s bands, leading the field when it came to the cult psychedelic pop culture in the UK at the time.
And the musicianship of the leading cast (comprised of Samuel Pope, Stefan Edwards, Stanton Wright and Alexander Gold) more than lives up to the original band’s reputation, with the group pumping out the famous tunes like “Lazy Sunday” and “Itchycoo Park” with vigour and energy. But it’s the bits in-between that are the problem. The dialogue, direction and some of the acting are painfully amateurish and the drawn-out story just doesn’t have enough to it to keep the audience interested.
Chris Simmons plays the ghost of Steve Marriot and narrates the piece in a slightly creepy and weird way, gradually descending into misery as the show goes on until he has a bizarre breakdown with his mother (played by writer Carol Harrison) to conclude a very strange plot line.
Apart from the music, it’s the multi role actors that are the only other real saving grace, with the ensemble stealing the show at times and Daniel Beales’ funny impressions of well-known sixties characters giving some humour to the otherwise rather bland dialogue.
If you’re a fan of The Small Faces, you’ll love the music, but as a two and a half hour piece of theatre, this just doesn’t really work.
Reviewed by Nicky Sweetland
Photo: Phil Weedon