★★★★ | Epstein – The Man Who Made The Beatles
Brian Epstein was, as the title suggests, the man who made the Beatles. After seeing them play a lunchtime gig at the Cavern Club in Liverpool in 1961, he persuaded them to let him act as their manager (in spite of no previous experience in this role) and helped find them the record deal that would shoot them to stardom.
In spite of his pivotal role in changing the face of British music he was often overlooked and missed out on recognition and credit for his behind the scenes influence.
Jewish, gay in a time when homosexuality was a criminal offence and experiencing an early death aged 32 from an accidental overdose of sleeping pills; what more do we know about Brian’s life? Andrew Sherlock’s well written two-hander delves into the psyche of Epstein by imagining a night just before his death where he brings back a young man (known only as This Boy) to his swanky Belgravia apartment. The writing is tight and witty and cranks up dramatic tension, let down only slightly by the overuse of puns relating to The Beatles and the odd cheesy line and too knowing comment about the sixties. There’s plenty of absurdity in Epstein’s preening and posturing and his fragile vanity but also pathos as he reveals himself as a man who has spent his life fighting his own corner in a bullying and disapproving world for a young Jewish gay man.
Andrew Lancel (Coronation Street, The Bill) is excellent as Epstein, even managing to look spookily like the man himself. He portrays him with skill as a well-nuanced character with endearing vulnerabilities as well as touches of monstrosity and simpering pomposity. He inhabits the stage, a convincing and versatile sixties interior, with a real presence and is entirely believable. Lancel is clearly an experienced actor at the peak of his powers and is a sight well worth seeing. Newcomer Will Finlason, as This Boy, is also extremely talented and his character acts as part narrator and partly as an excellent foil that illuminates the character of Epstein.
The set is perfect with stylish back projections and gorgeously stylish animations that work really well to enhance the piece and create period style. The beautifully restored underground gem of the Leicester Square Theatre is an ideal venue for the show as it was dubbed the Cavern in the Town back in the 1960s due to its hosting of music acts. It’s got air conditioning too if you need to escape an oppressively hot evening for a few hours too.
This isn’t a perfect play but it’s a good play and well worth seeing for an entertaining couple of hours.
The play runs until the 6th of September 2014
Buy tickets here: http://epsteintheplay.com
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He’s usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.