Posts Tagged ‘Jen Heyes’

Will we ever tire of biographical material about The Beatles? Well, certainly not while the generation that were brought up with them are still here, I suspect. This contribution provides a different perspective, as the group are an off-stage supporting cast to their manager Brian Epstein. I always saw him as a middle-aged man infatuated with and promoting four youths, so the biggest wake-up call for me was realising he died at 32 – Epstein the manager was also in his 20’s during most of the band’s life.

Andrew Sherlock’s play is set shortly before his death, in Beatles chronology between Sgt. Pepper and The White Album, whilst the band were coming under the spell of the Maharishi. Brian picks up This Boy at a club, but he’s not what he seems. He’s a wannabe journalist looking for the story of Epstein rather than the story of the Beatles. He eventually gains Epstein’s trust and we eventually break through to the personal story, though Epstein has to be continually re-directed from his natural inclination to talk about his boys.

The show is framed by This Boy talking direct to the audience, which didn’t completely work for me, particularly as it was peppered with cheesy references to song titles and lyrics. Epstein’s flip-flopping between trust and suspicion are occasionally over-played, though the sexual frisson gives a plausibility to the set-up and we do learn (particularly in the second half) a reasonable amount about the man and get some insight into his psychological make-up. It took a while to get into it, but it won me over in the better second half which packs the band’s recording years into 45 minutes.

Both Andrew Lancel, who has a striking resemblance to Epstein, and Will Finlason inhabit their characters and bring the fictitious situation to life; two very good performances. A simple 60’s living room in a London apartment is occasionally animated by video projections on the walls. There’s music to illustrate the story but not so much as to detract from the narrative. Jen Heyes direction also animates what could easily be a static two-hander.

For someone for whom this period and this story is part of the soundtrack of their life, like me, this is a welcome fix and a fresh perspective. It opened Liverpool’s refurbished and renamed Epstein Theatre in 2012 and it’s good to see it transfer from the city where the story starts to the city where it ended sadly and prematurely for a man who made an indelible mark on the 20th century.

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