REVIEW: All or Nothing – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

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


REVIEW: Shout! The Mod Musical – Momentum Playhouse, Edinburgh

Five girls coming of age in the ‘Swinging Sixties’ to a soundtrack of hits from the generation that created pop music, is Shout! The Mod Musical in a nutshell.

In an era when man conquered the moon, the pill was widely available, women were becoming liberated and the belief that there was suddenly a classless society, these ordinary girls find that while England claims to be swinging – things ain’t what they seem to be. Seeking guidance through this maelstrom, they write to Shout magazine’s agony aunt Gwendolyn Holmes for some sage advice. Unfortunately Ms. Holmes cure for all ills is the philosophy that women’s sole ambition is to be a wife and mother with perfect hair and an immaculate manicure.

The book writers Phillip George and David Lowenstein have pulled off an impressive feat in getting paid to write an almost invisible script. What really elevates this piece of fluff into a joyous celebration of girl power is its knock-out soundtrack and stunning cast. Who wouldn’t want to hear “Son of a Preacher Man”, “I Just Don’t Know What to do With Myself”, “Downtown” and the raucous title track sung gloriously by a quintet of stupendously talented actors? Their harmonies are particularly impressive and a delight to the ear.

Whilst it appears to be pure fluff, it does a helluva good job of highlighting the iniquities of being a woman in the 60’s through songs and laughter (domestic violence is even touched upon). It is terrifying to think that what was perfectly acceptable then is truly frightening now. There are particularly hilarious interludes about asbestos dresses “ooh, it makes me all tingly”, the side-effects of the pill, Paul McCartney’s impending nuptials and wearing the latest fashions: “I’m so chic, so trendy and so crippled” to look out for.

The whole thing tears along at break-neck speed in a riot of rainbow colours and the hits just keep on coming. This is a well-oiled machine and the chemistry created among the cast and their commitment to their roles absolutely shines through.

This is just a joyous celebration of womanhood and the music that set Britain on the world map.

Worth mentioning too from this production of ex-students from the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts, is the tribute to 60’s icon and Liverpool lass Cilla Black in the pre-show music – a nice touch.

Runs until 30 August 2015

This review was originally published at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/shout-the-mod-musical-momentum-playhouse-st-stephens-edinburgh/