As lockdown wears on, and the weeks all blur into one, more and more theatre is becoming available to stream online, allowing us to get our fix from the comfort of our own homes. Whilst I will admit to not having heard much about this one when it was running in the West End (apart from perhaps seeing the poster around town), when it was announced that All or Nothing, the mod musical, would be streaming online, there was quite a bit of fuss.
Filmed live at the Ambassadors Theatre, All or Nothing tells the story of lesser known sixties band The Small Faces. And no, I had never heard of them before watching this show either. Narrated by an older version of the main character and band front man Steve, we see the band from their humble beginnings through to some level of fame where they beat the Beatles to the number one slot in the charts. Upon giving up his mother’s dream of him becoming a famous actor, Steve instead becomes obsessed with the mod movement and becomes determined to make it as a musician with his friends. They become The Small Faces, touring the country in small venues and bumbling their ways through the charts.
With Chris Simmons playing the role of older Steve, narrating the story from start to finish, and Samuel Pope playing the younger Steve, it’s a strange dynamic. It feels like someone has taken Buddy! The Buddy Holly Story and Sunny Afternoon and crushed them together, trying to bring the multicoloured chaos of the sixties spirit to life whilst cramming as much music in as possible. And in my opinion, it doesn’t really work.
There is a lot of music of this show, song after song, and whilst you may think that is a good thing, here it is too much. By the time one song gets going, it’s suddenly over and another song has started, nothing really gets started before it’s over. The near constant use of music rattles the story forwards at a rapid speed, perhaps causing detail to be lost as well as some much needed character development. Apart from Steve and his rather overbearing mother Kay (played by Carol Harrison), I couldn’t tell you the names of any of the other characters.
Some of the jokes and details may have been a little bit lost on me due to my age and a lot of the references seemed to be aimed at those who remembered the band and the time period. There were some highlights, including the performance of Lazy Sunday Afternoon and Carol Harrison’s performance in the closing moments, but other than that, I can’t really pick out anything that memorable about this show, and that is a real shame. I feel that it could have worked much better if it had focused less on the music and more on the characters. This broadcast recording may have also been let down by the quality. Compared to other archive recordings, this looked like it had been filmed with one static camera zooming in and out from the circle.
Whilst the overall story of the band is a good one, this production powers through at such a speed that the softer moments are washed over by more music, favouring songs over characters. The cast do well with what they are given, but in my opinion, they really are not given all that much to work with.