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posted/updated: 05 Aug 2014 -
Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles
Written by Andrew Sherlock. Directed by Jen Heyes. Produced by Bill Elms & Jen Heyes Productions Ltd.
society/company: West End (professional shows) (directory)
performance date: 04 Aug 2014
venue: LEICESTER SQUARE THEATRE, 6 Leicester Place, London WC2H 7BX
reviewer/s: Paul Johnson (Sardines review)

Andrew Lancel (Brian Epstein) and Will Finlason (This Boy) in Epstein - The Man Who Made the Beatles. Photo - Bond Media Agency

You'd think every angle had been covered and every avenue exhausted by now – reporting on, documenting and dramatising the lives of the most successful and iconic pop group in history. Well, it appears not...

Liverpudlian writer, Andrew Sherlock, who grew up close to John Lennon, George Harrison and the Epstein family’s homes, has brilliantly managed to provide a revealing and heart-wrenching glimpse into the troubled, drug-fuelled and eventful life of The Fab Four's entrepreneurial and ground-breaking manager.

Tagged years later by Paul McCartney as the most deserving of 'The Fifth Beatle' accolade, Brian Epstein died in 1967 aged just 32. This week, Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles, originally produced in 2012 as an official part of Liverpool’s 50th Anniversary of the Beatles, began its month-long West End transfer at the Leicester Square Theatre.

An intimate two-hander, starring the captivating Andrew Lancel as ‘Epstein’ and Will Finlason as ‘This Boy’, the play explores the very private existence of one of the music industry’s most public yet ambiguous figures. Set in his plush London flat we follow the gay, Jewish music manager just a day before an ‘accidental’ overdose of sleeping pills would end his life.

Finlason’s passionate young scouse journalist, who Epstein has picked up in a bar and brought back to his pad, acts as the play’s catalyst managing, where others have failed, to ‘interview’ and delve inside the mind of the great and tragic man. An acting masterpiece ensues from Lancel and Finlason; sublime chemistry, utterly convincing on every level and drawing the audience into a famous but largely unknown world.

Fifty years on and I wonder what this remarkable pioneer – who would have celebrated his 80th birthday next month – would have made of the constant and saturated exposure, through reality talent shows, of the ‘management’ power of today’s pop industry.

By the end of his short life, Epstein was still completely in love with and dedicated to his four ‘boys’; a level of commitment that was sadly never reciprocated at the same level. This was bitterly hard to take for the man who started out – for a short while at least - with performing aspirations of his own, and was after all still young himself.

Jen Heyes’ subtle direction and monochrome set cleverly includes songs from Epstein’s own Desert Island Discs, coupled with Anthony Swords’ stylishly projected film clips. Grab a ticket and take yourself back to where it all began – although you might have to pay more than 12/6 this time around.

Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles plays at the Leicester Square Theatre until 6th September.

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