- July 11, 2017
Carol Harrison’s theatrical biography of The Small Faces is the real antidote to the sugary confections that are put out there in the guise of juke-box shows. Here the show is the story, the warts and all tale of a group of very young lads whose passion is rhythm and blues, but through the machinations of the pop industry, those passions are manipulated and diluted and their souls near destroyed or in the case of leader Stevie Marriott fully destroyed. Harrison has written, directed and stars in the show and has been the driving force behind the entire production and that force certainly has payed off. This is raw stuff, the seamy side of rock and roll, littered with sex and drugs and disillusionment as, despite chart success, a series of managers manage to royally rip the boys off. It’s also a tale of ego, the picture painted of Marriott is not a pretty one, he’s a foul mouthed, opinionated brat, steeled by self belief, a bad boy for sure but one with a certain lovable charm. This is achieved by the central device of the play in which he is played by two actors, Sam Pope as the young Stevie and Chris Simmons as the older, decaying if perhaps already prematurely dead Stevie – both brilliantly. Pope is one of the live actor musicians and his vocal skills are superb, cutting his way through the numbers with real power. Simmons is the comedic yet tragic and world weary older Stevie, bitter, booze addled and angry.
Of course a show like this where the actors also play the music requires a lot of real talent and the rest of the cast certainly have that, all the band members can both act and sing, and it has to be said capture that strangely adolescent look of what could almost be said were the first boy band, with balls of course. Russell Floyd is superbly menacing and hard nosed as Don Arden and the rest of the company all deliver a fine set of period cameos that include Tony Blackburn, David Jacobs, Dusty Springfield, Cathy McGowan and PP Arnold, all of which set the work in both time and place.
Finally, so many pop bio musicals seem to believe that the music is the only thing of any value. Not here, the music is great but is not used to deliver a mere concert which has the audience on its feet within the first five minutes and makes the story secondary. Here the story is king and the audience are held from the very start by what is ultimately a beautifully played out tragedy.
Theatre Royal Brighton