LEICESTER SQUARE THEATRE-London August 4th 2014
This year Brian Epstein would be 80 years old, and this play is one of the many tributes to him.
Following a very successful run in Liverpool, Epstein-The Man Who Made The Beatles has now moved to London.
Starring Andrew Lancel, as Brian Epstein, who has appeared in numerous TV shows, such as “Heartbeat”, “Casualty”, “Liverpool One”, “The Bill”, and “Coronation Street” to name a few, as well as theatre, film and radio work, and Will Finlayson, as This Boy, a fictitious character who wants to know the real Brian Epstein.
We are told by This Boy from the outset what to expect. This is a play that is about Brian, not The Beatles, not Cilla or any other of his artists, just to try and find the real Brian Epstein.
Many things have been written and said about Brian- particularly his so called poor business deals and of course the theories about his death, but this play shows the real Brian, brilliantly played by Lancel and you begin to realise what a talented man he was who believed in his boys “The Beatles”.
It is hard to think now that in the early 1960’s no one outside London really made records. Brian pushed for The Beatles to get a recording contract, and then to get them into America, but first they must have a number one hit, and then he insisted on top billing on the “Ed Sullivan Show”. Added to this that The Beatles wrote their own music, unheard of in those days, Brian really believed they had a future.
The play reflects this, and how Brian felt about his boys. There is a scene where This Boy is given a box containing all the rejection letters Brian received when trying to get The Beatles a recording deal.
“You have a successful record shop Mr Epstein- stick to that”, was one of the most hurtful ones. Any Beatle facts that Brian talks about here are quickly finished by the wonderful This Boy, who knows The Beatles story inside out. He is here to find the real Brian. The drugs, the drink, Lennon’s remarks about him being Jewish, and of course his sexuality. It’s all here in this wonderful play.
The play doesn’t give you an answer to all the myths, which it shouldn’t. It is a play about Brian, his poor business deals, which at the time seemed good. Who was to know how big The Beatles would become, making these good deals at the time later rob The Beatles of millions of pounds. But hey- this was 1962-63 no one had done deals like this for recording contracts- song writing rights, but Brian did what he thought was right. Brian was a ground breaker for all the acts that would follow and create the British Invasion.
The play makes you realise how much we have Brian to be thankful for. The British pop artists breaking America, of course, is the main one, without Brian, who knows what the history of pop music would be like today.
There are flashback scenes where Brian reflects on his childhood and sexuality. The scenes are brilliantly played and make you realise how much pressure Brian must have been under. The requests for interviews, concerts, television, radio, it makes you wonder how he did it all, not just for The Beatles, but his other acts too.
As well as Lancel, the part of This Boy, played by Will Finlayson is superb. Deep down he is looking for a story, but it is clear he wants to know Brian and at times help him get through those bad times, which is reciprocated by Epstein.
This is a wonderful play and to end with a standing ovation at a press night says it all.
Epstein runs at the Leicester Square Theatre, London until September 6th 2014.
-- Review by Ernie Sutton