All or Nothing


 

Small Faces

 

All or Nothing - The Mod Musical: Bournemouth Pavilion (Thursday 23rd June)

Summer by the seaside and a mod invasion! Blimey, it could be 50 years ago. Indeed the mid 1960s is where we find ourselves when the curtain goes up on this musical about the mercurial rise and subsequent fall of the Small Faces.

It traces the band through three tumultuous years - 1965 to 1968. Years which saw them change from chippy East End mods with a passion for raucous R&B to even chipper hippies losing themselves in swirl of psychedelia and bad karma. It may have only been three years but it must have felt like 300.

The Small Faces enjoyed massive commercial success but were undone by ego (and acid) trips and ended up broke after being horribly exploited by two managers - Don Arden and Andrew Loog Oldham. Lead singer Steve Marriott eventually walked out and Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood walked in. The Small Faces were no more.

It’s a tricky tale to tell in a chirpy, singalong musical but actor and writer Carol Harrison who plays Marriott’s mum Kay has done a pretty good job of evoking both the era and the tensions that ultimately destroyed the band.

The show is narrated by Chris Simmons as the ghost of middle aged Marriott (who died in a house fire in 1991) looking back with some regret on his chaotic life while young Steve is played with considerable moddy-boy panache by Mark Newnham who comes close to being both a credible lookalike and soundalike. No mean feat.

As the tale unfolds we get all the hits from the onstage band from Watcha Gonna Do About It  through Here Comes the Nice, All or Nothing, Itchycoo Park,Tin Soldier and the studio gem that was Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake.

We also get the inside story of how Arden, played by Russell Floyd, promised the earth but took them to the proverbial cleaners. He also tried to drag the band away from their beloved R&B to a world of teeny-bop stardom and engineered the ousting of original keyboard player Jimmy Winston (Joseph Peters) to bring in Ian McClagen (Josh Maddison).

With Drew-Levi Huntsmen as drummer Kenney Jones and Joshua Dowen as bass player Ronnie Lane the play focuses on how the Small Faces slowly changed from fun-loving ‘Cockney oiks’ to band that was confused, embittered and exhausted.

It may not sound like a lot of fun but this production with many walk-on parts from characters involved in the Small Faces story certainly is. Dami Olukoya as PP Arnold gives a particularly strong performance. Several other characters are played for laughs and I particularly enjoyed Daniel Beales' cheesy rendering of Tony Blackburn although he probably didn’t know that the real-life Blackburn appeared many times  as a young musician on that self same stage at the Bournemouth Pavilion before finding stardom as a DJ.

I was also struck by the show’s Lazy Sunday Afternoon knees up. The opening lyric “Wouldn’t it be nice to get on with me neighbours” seemed somehow appropriate on the night of the Referendum vote.

The show would undoubtedly have been better in a more innate venue but the cast worked hard and by the end of the night the audience was on its feet and dancing.

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2017