Saturday 10 February 2018

All Or Nothing: The Mod Musical @ The Arts Theatre

All Or Nothing: The Mod Musical

Jukebox musicals are ten a penny these days, with the music of the 50s and 60s being particularly fruitful as a source of nostalgia-fuelled inspiration. All Or Nothing is simply the next in line.

Based on the music and history of The Small Faces, it's a colourful depiction of the Mod culture of the 60s following the rise and fall of a band in the midst of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. It's told through the view of frontman Steve Marriott who reminisces on his past from the afterlife, framing the whole show as a grand nostalgia piece.

Writer Carol Harrison worked with Marriott's mother Kay and daughter Mollie (the show's vocal coach) to bring authenticity to the production. Yet crucially, this feels like the glossy memory of a distant past. It's a whimsical evening of live band performances, bright faithful costumes, comedy cameos and lad banter: loud, brash and frothy. In this context, its criticism of the music industry and manufactured pop is flimsy.

Harrison seems keen to paint Marriott as a tragic anti-hero. Chris Simmons stumbles on to the stage to deliver his narration as the older Marriott with Cockney swagger, pint in one hand and cigarette permanently in the other. Yet he's far from a likeable character, only emphasised by Samuel Pope's depiction of the younger Marriott as an arrogant, cantankerous youth. His only redeeming feature is his charisma as a frontman, something Pope captures wonderfully with authentic jerky movements and vocals. The show lacks the raw edge that Harrison is eager to convey and when the plot lunges into the band's tragic end it stumbles into un-earned sentimentality.

And while The Small Faces were synonymous with Mod culture, their legacy lacks far behind the likes of The Beatles or The Who from the same period. "Itchycoo Park" and "Lazy Sunday" have that 'oh it's this one' quality, but the remaining songs - though performed well by the core cast - are memorable only to fans.

Which brings us back to nostalgia. For the target audience - fans of the band, like Harrison herself - All Or Nothing offers a fun opportunity to reminisce. But its popular appeal is limited to curio status, a musical that fails to entertain a wider audience.


Watch: All Or Nothing runs at the Arts Theatre until 11th March.

All Or Nothing: The Mod Musical
Photo: Phil Weedon