Epstein: The Man Who Made the Beatles
Leicester Square Theatre is currently playing host to a production about Brian Epstein, the man who managed the Beatles and brought them to fame before his untimely death, aged 32. The play is a two-man show and revolves around a fictionalised scenario in which Epstein, played by Andrew Lancel, invites a young aspiring journalist known only as “This Boy” (a character representing the spirit of 60s Liverpool played by Will Finalson) up to his room for drinks. A turbulent back-and-forth joust unfolds between the pair as Epstein, who is hoping for a romantic encounter, slowly discovers that This Boy has a hidden agenda: to write an updated biography on the infamous manager.
The play shows potential but Lancel kills it stone-dead with an overtly camp, pantomime portrayal of Epstein. If you remember the Direct Line car insurance adverts featuring an intensely irritating and not remotely funny Alexander Armstrong, this is remarkably close to the way Lancel plays Epstein (the two actors even look weirdly similar).
Will Finalson is a lot more watchable and charismatic, but his character is written with a slightly corny, rose-tinted idealism and at times he is so earnest that he becomes annoying. This aside, there are some good scenes between the pair and the two hours are filled with dramatic twists and turns, a highlight being an incredibly well-staged fist fight that has everyone on the edge of their seats in shocked silence.
The set doesn’t change throughout the play as all the action takes place in Epstein’s living room; however in scenes where Epstein drifts off into recounting old memories, Finalson will slink off backstage and reappear as characters from Epstein’s past, primarily bullies who pick on him for being gay or Jewish. These scenes provide much-needed relief from the claustrophobia of the living room, but perhaps could have benefited from changes in lighting or costume (although given the speed at which they occur this may not have been possible).
The premise of the play is interesting and manages to provide insight into Epstein’s personal life and career without attempting to recreate any real events, but Lancel’s performance prevents the production from reaching the impact it could have attained with better casting.
Epstein: The Man Who Made the Beatles is on at Leicester Square Theatre until 6th September 2014, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch an interview with the cast here: