All or Nothing Review
East London, 1965. The explosion of pills, thrills and high-collared shirts that was the mod scene is just about to begin, and at the centre of it are four young cockney lads, keen on continental clothing, US-imported blues and getting out of the button-down scene of the generation before them. This is the story of the Small Faces.
Having read the book “Young Mods’ Forgotten Story” by Paolo Hewitt I had an inkling as to the story of this seminal mod band of the 1960s. However, when the curtains lifted, I was in a right “two and eight”.
Walking into the foyer of Palace Theatre was like stumbling into a casting call for Quadrophenia, with a polished and gleaming Vespa adorned with lights, mirrors and custom paintwork for the show sitting front and centre, and mods of all ages mingling and comparing each other’s loafers. It goes to show just how influential the whole scene still is over 50 years later.
Right from the off start, the audience is thrown into the heavy rhythm & blues energy that was the Small Faces live performance. Theatrical cues and title references are dotted throughout the show, allowing the journey from teen pop sensations to struggling photo-prog genius to fully unravel throughout the course of the story.
The subject matter is presented in such a style so as it sometimes feels like an incredibly adept tribute act, with smatterings of pop music lore, urban legend and personal encounters stemming from winter and director Carol Harrison’s long-term friendship with Steve Marriott himself. Nothing is sugar-coated, from the band’s gritty dealings with gangster-cum-manager Don Arden, to the heady days of the band’s rise to household fame and their tragic implosion.
There were nice little touches in the set design such as the graffiti sprayed in the street scene, the poster-sized face of Twiggy right down to Tretchikoff’s ‘The Green Lady’ hanging in Mr & Mrs Marriott’s living room, a painting which everyone’s mum seemed to have in the 60’s and the type of detail for which a keen-eye is required. Much like the costume design, not a stitch out of place.
Speaking of which, the costumes, an integral part of anything mod, is nigh-on perfect, with a combination of vintage and retro-inspired clothing suitable for the band, who often spent their entire wages on new togs.
David Shute, who stood in as the young Steve Marriot, perfectly embodied the spirit of the idealistic young singer, whilst Chris Simmons’ take on an over-the-hill, jaded ex-rockstar provided a fitting narrator to the tale of the rise and fall of the group, from the optimism of the early days, through to the bitter break-up.
Stanton Wright encapsulates both Ronnie Lane’s cheekiness and innocence in equal measure, even going as far as adopting the bassist’s mannerisms when performing. According to Stan Lane, Ronnie’s brother who attended the performance, “he got the leg-work right”.
Comedic relief is in the form of Daniel Beales’ multiple roles as Marriott’s father, Tony Blackburn, Stanley Unwin and a particularly bawdy northern comedian who opens for the band on their ill-fated tour of northern England.
For anyone with an interest in mod culture, the show is a must, with real heart, plenty of cockney giggles and the style and flair befitting what was the quintessential mod band of the 1960s.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to look for a striped boating blazer on eBay…
All or Nothing is showing at Palace Theatre until 16th September.