LYNNE WALSH sees a barnstorming musical tribute to the Small Faces, which captures the highs and the lows of an iconic band
All or Nothing
Rose Theatre, Kingston/Touring
SHARP-SUITED sixty-somethings strutted into Kingston for this mod musical, which roared into town on a very natty scooter of a show.
Most of the 800-strong audience, word-perfect in the Small Faces songbook, gave a joyful response to a production kick-started in barnstorming mode. It was difficult to forget we weren’t actually at a gig.
Minutes later, chuckling at the young Steve Marriott (Samuel Pope) setting fire to his school, we’re introduced to the ghost of the older Marriott (Chris Simmons) reassuring mum Kay (Danielle Johnson) that he’d done no such thing.
Ironically, the talented yet troubled Marriott died in a house fire at his home in 1991 at the age of just 44.
The poignancy of this tale, handled deftly throughout, is one of working-class lads on the shaky ladder to fame.
Written and directed by Carol Harrison, of Eastenders fame, some of the flare-ups between the Faces are rather choreographed and lack the tension of real soul-mates falling out.
But that’s a quibble in the context of a narrative which represents the experiences of so many kids who start bands, or those who defy their parents to see them.
At the soulful heart of this piece is Simmons as Marriott, who’s the perfect cheeky Cockney. Narcissistic and romantic, he’s full of witty one-liners and truly terrible chat-up lines.
His unravelling, as Marriott rages against band mates, agents, the BBC and his mum, shows us a more dissolute figure, though never a bitter one.
A shrug reminds us that the music business has always been both venal and glorious.
We’re reminded of the latter in the tiny moment when Marriott watches, awestruck, as Dusty Springfield (Sophia Ben) sings. Taking her outstretched hand, he kisses it. The audience actually sighed.
I saw Marriott in 1991 playing with Packet of Three, when he was three sheets to the wind. But his guitar was sober and flawless and his voice could break your heart and mend it in one phrase.
It was his last gig and he died a few months later. Lesson — go out and see some live music. Do it tonight. Our heroes are with us for a brief time.