Review: All or Nothing, by Carol Harrison, New Wolsey Theatre until September 17

The cast of All or Nothing recreating the look and the sound of 1960s Mod band The Small Faces at th

The cast of All or Nothing recreating the look and the sound of 1960s Mod band The Small Faces at the New Wolsey Theatre - Credit: Archant

The Small Faces were, for four brief but shining years, one of Britain’s most creative, best loved bands. They, along with The Who, were the symbols of Mod culture in Britain. During their times together they had a string of catchy r’n’b-influenced hit singles before branching out into psychedelia in the late 60s and scored a number one hit album with their intriguingly packaged concept album Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake, which was designed to resemble a round tobacco tin.

The cast of All or Nothing recreating the look and the sound of 1960s Mod band The Small Faces at th

The cast of All or Nothing recreating the look and the sound of 1960s Mod band The Small Faces at the New Wolsey Theatre - Credit: Archant

But, the band who came up with hits like Whatcha Gonna Do About It, Sha-La-La-La-Lee, Itchycoo Park, Lazy Sunday and the play’s title track All or Nothing were a group of talented but self-destructive individuals who were seduced by the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll life style and burned out in a chaotic blaze of glory on New Year’s Eve 1968 at Alexandra Palace.

The play is part biography of the band, told in flash-back by an older spectral Steve Marriott (Chris Simmons), and part tribute gig. The script, written by Carol Harrison, who also plays Marriott’s forceful EastEnd mother Kay, paints a revealing portrait of the internal dynamics of the band.

Although The Small Faces consisted of Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Kenny Jones, Jimmy Winston and then Ian McClagan, the story is told very much through the eyes of the charming but inherently selfish Steve Marriot.

It’s a huge tribute to both Chris Simmons and Tim Edwards, who plays the young Steve, that they make him so easy to like and forgive. It’s a show with a character cast of star names from DJs like Alan Freeman and Tony Blackburn to famous musicians like Dusty Springfield, Sonny and Cher and Peter Frampton.

The cast of All or Nothing recreating the look and the sound of 1960s Mod band The Small Faces at th

The cast of All or Nothing recreating the look and the sound of 1960s Mod band The Small Faces at the New Wolsey Theatre - Credit: Archant


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It’s a show which has a huge amount of affection for the era and lovingly recreates the sounds and looks of Swinging London during those fast-moving years between 1965 and 1968. But, for all the friendships, character-conflicts and the wheeling and dealing, music lies at the very heart of the show and the ensemble cast reveal themselves to be first-rate musicians blasting out hit after hit in a manner which recreates the changing look and sound of the band but keeping it in the context of a play rather than a fully-fledged tribute gig.

All or Nothing serves up a wonderful night of nostalgia. It follows a similar format to the New Wolsey’s production of the Marc Bolan story, 20th Century Boy, and although this doesn’t deliver quite the same dramatic punch, you certainly can’t quibble about the entertainment value.

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Andrew Clarke

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