Mod era extravaganza 'The All or Nothing Experience' comes to Theatre Severn this February 21 - 22 featuring the music of Small Faces. My Shrewsbury's Simon Cousins catches up with its creator - Eastenders star Carol Harrison. She's inviting scooterists to join her for a photocall on Tuesday at 5.30pm!
Calling all scooterists! It’s All or Nothing time! The Mods are back in town next week. Get down to Theatre Severn and get happy.
Carol Harrison’s The All or Nothing Experience, her homage to those 60s icons ‘The Small Faces’, plus the music that followed, returns to Shrewsbury on Tuesday and Wednesday. “Kick off your shoes, dance and sing!” urges Carol. “It’s the best music in the world!”
Her hugely successful Mod show - a concert version of the musical of the same name - follows the story of Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones as they set the Swinging Sixties alight with barnstorming hits like ‘Itchycoo Park’, 'Lazy Sunday', ‘Sha La La La Lee’ and, of course, ‘All or Nothing’.
Steve Marriott was the band’s charismatic front man and the show tells his story, from his meteoric rise through to the troubles that later befell him.
Carol got to know Steve and the rest of the band through her elder boy cousins. He was seven years older than Carol and she fell under his spell. “When you met Steve, it was like fireworks. He was just really ‘out there’. He was a genius really. Many great artists are. They want to give so much, prove so much, express so much.”
Like Carol, the band were working class kids. They called themselves the Small Faces because none of them were taller than 5 feet 6 inches, but they had enough swagger to break down barriers in those revolutionary times.
“They were the most underrated band of the '60s,” says Carol. "They influenced so many other bands who came afterwards. It seemed inevitable I would tell this story. I was a Mod myself, with a paper dress and dolly rocker shoes. To me, the '60s were the most incredible times.”
As well as writing this extraordinary show, Carol has achieved enormous acclaim as an actor throughout a distinguished career. Growing up in Upton Park in the East End of London, where life was tough, she had decided she wanted to be an actor by the age of six: “My mum was a single parent. We were very poor, so I used to escape into my fantasy world. I was like Doris Day or Calamity Jane. My mum couldn’t afford to send me to stage school, so I started Youth Theatre when I was 11 - at the same school as Steve, I found out later!”
“I worked with Joan Littlewood at the Theatre Royal’s youth drama for deprived kids and then I was offered a place with the radical General Will Theatre Company company, who went out and toured the country, bringing theatre to the people.”
Back in her native East End, she became a founder member of the renowned Half Moon Theatre and from there she joined the Royal National Theatre Company to work with the legendary Arthur Miller in Michael Rodman’s highly acclaimed production of Death of a Salesman.
On the small screen, Carol will be forever remembered for her unforgettable portrayals of 'dumb blonde' Gloria on BrushStrokes (“I joined for one episode and stayed for seven years!”) and the 'flawed and complex' Louise Raymond, mother of Martine McCutcheon’s Tiffany Mitchell, in a storyline that won a Bafta. She is also very proud of her role as Loretta Sweet in Marks and Gran’s Get Back, in which she starred with Ray Winstone and a young Kate Winslet.
Yet it is probably All or Nothing of which she is most proud. She wrote the script after gaining an MA in Screenwriting, feeling she had something to prove to herself and to the world after a dyslexic childhood spent at the back of the class, where her difficulties were largely unrecognised. Luckily, her young English teacher told her, “Your storytelling is amazing!” and Carol began to realise that dyslexia can be a gift. “You think in a different way,” says Carol.
This has resulted in her writing, directing and starring in “the only musical guys would drag their girls too. Then their kids and their grandkids would come and it became a trans-generational experience!” (The story of Steve Marriott, who died at the age of 44 after a pioneering career spanning over two decades, makes men cry too).
“The show’s band is fantastic,” Carol tells me. “They have to be brilliant musicians, have great voices, be East End boys with all that attitude and be good actors. And they have to be small too!”
Carol is crazily busy getting the show ready for a 40 venue tour, the first since its West End run in 2018.
“We’re launching the show here because Shrewsbury is very special to us,” explains Carol. Ronnie Lane, who died in 1997 after living with Multiple Sclerosis for many years, lived with his family not far from the county town at Fishpools Farm in Hyssington on the Shropshire/Mid Wales border.
“We’d like to say thank you to all our audiences,” says Carol. “We gets lots of scooterists having a ride-out to our shows. So we’d love them to meet us outside the theatre at 5.30pm on Tuesday 21st February, have their photographs taken with the cast and create a bit of a stir!"
Be there or be square on Tuesday 21st and Wednesday 22nd February at Theatre Severn Shrewsbury. Tickets are selling fast - book HERE now!