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Interview: Carol Harrison speaks ahead of role in Small Faces' musical All or Nothing oin Shrewsbury

Shrewsbury | Entertainment | Published:

It is the title of one of Small Faces' biggest hits and a song which helps define Mod culture.

But it is also the name adopted for a brand new musical about the band and describes the battle to bring the show to the stage by its writer, producer and one of its stars Carol Harrison.

Flashback 50 years to the height of Mod madness in the UK and Small Faces were one of the biggest names in music thanks to their earthy songs, incredible musicianship, a sharp look and stacks of swagger.

For many, their music was the soundtrack of the Mod era and the quartet became household names the world over.

But, as ever, the perilous path to stardom (and beyond) is littered with booby traps – be they unscrupulous managers, girls, alcohol or drugs. This combination of the perks and pitfalls of the music business are mixed in this punchy production from the pen of actress and writer Carol Harrison. The result? All Or Nothing, which heads to Shrewsbury's Theatre Severn from Monday to Wednesday.

It is the latest, and arguably the most important, project in Carol's career so far which has seen her do everything from stage work with the legendary Arthur Miller, a cameo in Quadrophenia, and major roles in some of TV's biggest shows.

As Carol explains, All Or Nothing is deeply personal though thanks to her long-term friendship with The Small Faces lead singer, the late Steve Marriott. She recalls: "My aunt lived two streets away from his mum, my cousin knew him, and another cousin was in a band with him. He came round to our house when I was eight years old and he was just this amazing bundle of effervescence and talent. I had a bit of a crush on him."

From that point on, Carol was hooked on the tunes, attitude and fashion of Steve and his bandmates. "I loved the music, I loved their humour, and they were just Mod like me. You know what they say. Once a Mod, always a Mod. I grew up in the sixties and I loved their music. I became friends with Kenny Jones from the band and I am very close to Molly, Steve's daughter. I also learned about their amazing rock n roll story and I thought it was an amazing tale. I also think they are the most unsung, underrated band of the 60s. An awful lot of musicians have been influenced by them and still cite them as their idols. Bands like Ocean Colour Scene and musicians like Paul Weller have been very influenced by them." Ever the storyteller, Carol decided Small Faces' rise was something she wanted to share.

She said: "I wanted to tell their story and explore how they were so ripped off. Also because it is East End, I wanted to be in my language, be authentic and the way we speak.

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"I wanted to use my Cockney language and convey the excitement and that whole sub-culture that exists.

"My writing comes from the heart. I wanted to tell the truth really and be authentic to them. Mollie is very happy with the way I portray him. He is a very complex character their dad. It is warts-and-all but it is also a celebration of them. It was tragic how he died."

And for Carol, it brings many personal memories too, and not just about her love of Small Faces. A relative produced Quadrophenia, she had her first taste of alcohol in the band's local The Ruskin Arms, and was also a member of Kensington Youth Club where they did their first gig.

But equally, she did not want to sugar-coat the band's story or just copy other similar shows. Carol explained: "I have never written a musical before. I like musicals but I didn't want to write something that was just an excuse to play a song.

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"I had to break down a lot of theatrical conventions with a show but I have always broken rules. People said it should be fluffier or have someone from The X Factor playing Steve but my response was 'over my dead body'."

Once it was written and finance was secured through what Carol describes as 'her angels', it was time to bring it to the stage.

Behind the scenes, she recruited one of this country's most respected and well-established writers and directors Tony McHale to help bring it to fruition. "When I wrote it, I thought who could direct it. I have worked with Tony before and he just came to mind because he is a bit rock n roll and he was a Mod."

The show got its premiere in the Mod pilgrimage spot of Brighton Beach followed by a charity performance in Worthing, and then the show enjoyed its first long run in The Vaults underneath London's Waterloo Station.

By Andy Richardson

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