Wednesday 6 August 2014

Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles - Review

Leicester Square Theatre, London


Written by Andrew Sherlock
Directed by Jen Heye

Andrew Lancel and Will Finlason

Brian Epstein was the manager who took The Beatles from a group of unknowns to global stardom. A gay music journalist who was to fatally overdose at the age of 34, Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles is a meticulously researched two-hander that charts the impresario's troubled life.

Andrew Lancel reprises the title role he created in Liverpool two years ago. There is a lot of content in Andrew Sherlock's writing and Lancel's performance is a well honed critique of a complex man. Sherlock introduces a nameless foil, This Boy, to debate, flirt with and challenge Epstein, drawing his life story out through the narrative. Will Finlason, another returnee, re-creates Epstein's fictional sparring partner and like Lancel, gives of himself completely, both roles peppered with lengthy monologues.

The downfall of this piece is in its title. Any play introducing itself with a six word mission statement is warning the audience that the 90 minutes or so of ensuing content may well lack analysis. Like a pack of Beatles Top Trumps cards Sherlock's prose is crammed with facts, but it’s all heavy on the narrative with little to power the piece along. Projected images and brief snatches of music suggest the era and keep production costs down, but the drama never really takes flight. That being said, to the production’s credit, the programme is a treasure trove of useful information and a damn good read.

Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles gets too bogged down in the detail of the man’s life including his promiscuous sexuality, without giving enough of a dramatic structure to care about. It lacks the tragic spotlight that Taboo (the Boy George musical) was able, for example, to shine upon Philip Sallon. Maybe the show needs more songs? Maybe it needs a thorough overhaul? Who knows. The play certainly teaches much about the facts of Brian Epstein's life, but offers little comment or understanding of the man. More educational than entertaining, it’s strictly for the historians.

Runs until 6th September 2014

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