Monday’s (August 4) press night of Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles, a play about the ill-starred manager who guided the Beatles to global domination, brought a warm response from an audience including such celebrities as Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason and Paul McCartney’s brother Mike McGear.
The play was premiered in November 2012 in a well-received run at Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre, as part of the city’s official Beatles 50th Anniversary celebrations. The London production runs until September 6.
Record mogul Seymour Stein and Holly Johnson, once of hit Liverpool band Frankie Goes To Hollywood, were also in the audience for the powerful and intense two-hander, which features only Andrew Lancel as Epstein and Will Finlason as the otherwise unnamed “This Boy,” who meets the mogul in a club in 1967 and goes back to his London apartment.
The Epstein character proceeds to divulge insights into his life in a production that succeeds in shedding new light on his troubled persona. Lancel and Finlason both excel, one as the highly gifted but deeply insecure entrepreneur, the other as his improbable confidant. Their conversations continue deep into what, we learn at the conclusion, is Epstein’s last night before his death in August 1967.
What shines through all his insecurities is Epstein’s passionate devotion to The Beatles and everything they achieved with him. There are frequent references, but deft side-stepping, of well-known episodes in his story, sometimes illustrated with filmic backdrops and silhouettes, and other touches including the manager’s memories of John Lennon’s acerbic wit (such as the script’s reference to his suggestion that Epstein’s 1964 autobiography A Cellarful of Noise should have been titled "A Cellarful of Boys”).
The director of the London production is Jen Heyes and the play is written by Andrew Sherlock for Bill Elms & Jen Heyes Productions. Lancel is described by Heyes as a “self-confessed Beatles nut,” and she describes the play as “beautifully and deftly written,” and “inspired by Brian’s sharp sense of style and love of fashion.”
Sherlock was raised in Liverpool close to the houses of both Lennon’s and George Harrison’s childhood homes, and to the Epstein family house.
The show follows the recent unveiling of a Blue Plaque on the site of Sutherland House, the former offices of Epstein’s NEMS company, near to the London Palladium. Epstein, who was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in April, would have been 80 on September 19.