All or Nothing

Reviewer's Rating

You could be forgiven for thinking that a show titled All Or Nothing would have at least a passing reference to Rodgers and Hammerstein, however the All Or Nothing of this particular theatrical offering has precious little to do with Oklahoma and all to do with the1960’s mod band The Small Faces, whose story this purports to tell.

Carol Harrison – who not only wrote but also directs and stars in this production – has a nice line in funny dialogue, much of it satisfyingly crude, but the show overall, though billed as a musical, fails to ignite any passion on anything other than the most superficial level.

The problem is, it’s sold as a musical, but isn’t. It’s a play with some songs interpolated. Every now and again the action stops and the band plays a number from The Small Faces’ back catalogue, but the songs neither comment on the action, nor further the plot. You could remove all of them and the show wouldn’t change. It would just be a rather fast-paced and broadly written play about the band, with a framing device of one of the members of the band, the guitarist and lead singer Steve Marriott from whose perspective the story is told, looking back from death at his ‘legacy’.

So what about those three most important questions in storytelling ‘Whose story is it?’ ‘What do they want?’ and ‘What’s stopping them from getting it?’?

Well, it’s clearly Marriott’s story, and for all his being inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (he died in a house fire in 1991) he is, at least as written here and portrayed by Chris Simmons (Older Marriott) and Samuel Pope (Younger Marriott), a difficult man to like.

What does he want? Well, taking a path well-trodden by other, and I’d argue rather better, jukebox musicals such as (The Kinks’) Sunny Afternoon, he wants essentially to be a pop star and ‘make music’.

What’s stopping him? It’s hard to say. The band have a seriously dodgy agent, Don Arden (the wonderfully villainous Russell Floyd), but he doesn’t stop them making music, quite the reverse in fact.

Marriott’s mother, Kay (Harrison, who has wisely reserved the most moving sequence of the show for her own post-mortem scene with her own dead son just before the end of Act Two), eventually comes round to the idea that he should be making music, so it can’t be her.

In fact, the only person who can reasonably be fingered as the antagonist is Harrison himself who seems not only intent on disruption, but also on self destruction, having no qualms about taking with him as collateral damage anyone who might have had the misfortune to stray into his path.

Still, there are some positives. The four young actors playing The Small Faces – Samuel Pope, Stefan Edwards, Stanton Wright, and Alexander Gold – play, act, and sing as if they are he real thing and lift the piece immeasurably.

There are fine comedy turns elsewhere from Daniel Beales whose range stretches from Tony Blackburn all the way to Professor Stanley Unwin, and a strong performance from Karis Anderson as PP Arnold, though elsewhere the female presence is rather antediluvian and exploitative (Harrison seems to be able to write mothers and dolly birds, but not much in between).

All in all, certainly one for fans of the music, but yet another show which at the end just gives up on narrative and plays the band’s back catalogue in an attempt to justify the cost of the ticket which, at £80 for a top price seat, must be among the priciest The Arts Theatre has ever seen.