Ambassador Theatre, London – until 2 June 2018. Reviewed by Heather Chalkley
The opening night and a star studded audience gave the theatre a great buzz and for good reason. All or Nothing is a fitting tribute to the early years of a great band, before drink, drugs and rock n’ roll got the better of them. Chris Simmons portrayal of the deceased lead singer Steve Marriott, how he might have been now, was phenomenal. Seeing the rise and fall of the Small Faces through his eyes, as he becomes more derelict during the performance, was an inspired piece of writing. Simmons was able to show the full range of emotions, from hurt,
anger to spell bound love, without over acting the stoned drunkenness of that time. He naturally and easily weaved in and out of the young band and his younger self as the story unfolded. He carried the East End boy swagger and character of Steve Marriott all the way through. On top of that he can certainly give it some welly when it comes to the Small Faces tunes!
Steve Marriott’s mum, Kay Marriott, was played by the writer and director Carol Harrison. Kay was written as a caricature of a 60’s East End mum, lending both humour and high emotion to the piece. The in your face costume and make-up reflected perfectly Kay’s character. It was the over the top nature of Kay that enabled Carol Harrison to stitch the performance together, with the roller coaster emotions of an East End parent that only wants the best for her kid, mostly to get out of the working class trap in Britain at that time. One of my favourite scenes was Kay looking out into the audience as if we are the television, watching Small Faces for the first time. She had a large hair drying hat over her curlered hair and a portable air dryer unit attached to her waist, dancing and shouting excitedly to Bill her husband to come and watch – he was on the khazi! This was with the band playing right next to her! Hilarious! In direct contrast was the
fantastic final scene, where older Steve and his mum Kay are having a conversation that never actually happened for real. Carol Harrison as Kay, gave a heartfelt outpouring of grief and despair that only a mother can feel when she loses a child that was dramatic, believable and powerful.
Samuel Pope played young Steve Marriott, giving him all the energy and angst of youth. The aggression and passion of Steve Marriott came through in the music and the dialogue. So much so I think it could work well on a bigger stage. Samuel managed to deliver the humour and vulnerability of Steve Marriott at the same time filling the stage with his huge ego! The demise into alcohol and drugs reflected the pain of betrayal and dissatisfaction, both of which were palpable in his performance.
The musicality of the four boys drew you into their world of youthful exuberance and naivety from the early days. Stanton Wright gave an outstanding performance as Ronnie Lane, capturing his less angst and more philosophical nature. Both Alexander Gold as Ian Mclagan and Stefan Edwards as Kenny Jones helped create the band camaraderie born of hunger for a better life, for fame and simply the urge to play music. All played with a good dose of East End
The very talented Karis Anderson as PP Arnold gave a stunning vocal performance that stopped everyone in their tracks.
The versatile supporting cast added to the humour, multitasking in their roles. Particularly Daniel Beales who played about 8 parts including Tony Blackburn. The costume and set helped to create an authentic image of the era, along with references in the dialogue to landmark moments in history at that time.
Carol Harrison’s inclusion of the historic references gave the show an extra depth and richness. She had clearly done her research both historically and of the characters, which came through strongly in writing. All or Nothing could be a self indulgent trip down memory, if it wasn’t for Carol’s commitment to producing the truth and to share Steve Marriott’s story. For the short time Steve, Ronnie, Ian and Kenny had together they made their stand and tried to stay true to their
The show finished with a swing, encouraging everyone to get up and dance to iconic tunes like Watcha Gonna Do About It and of course the shows name sake All or Nothing.
An epic performance for the first night at the Ambassadors. I would thoroughly recommend it.