Review: Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles
By Gemma Brosnan
‘Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles’ is a window into the fiercely private world of the visionary entrepreneur whose stellar career as Beatles manager made him a household name, yet whose controversial personal life remained very much in the closet until his accidental overdose at the age of 32.
Gay, Jewish and privileged with a clean-cut appearance, Epstein was an unlikely manager of a pop group from working-class Liverpool in an era when homosexuality was still illegal. His desperation to keep the spotlight on the Fab Four and firmly away from his own hazy preferences left many unanswered questions when his addiction to pills led to the overdose that ultimately killed him.
Set on the weekend of Brian’s death in August 1967, Andrew Sherlock’s stripped back two-hander imagines the brilliant but troubled man’s drug-fuelled final days whilst looking back upon his illustrious adult life and meteoric career from his drama school days to managing the world’s biggest pop group.
Acclaimed stage and TV actor, Andrew Lancel excels as Brian, effortlessly showcasing his cut-glass vocals and flamboyant nuances whilst pitting his explosive outbursts against despairingly childish fragility to give a full portrait of the deeply complex man.
Will Finlason shines as a fictional character simply known as ‘This Boy’, representing the various types that took advantage of Epstein’s reckless vulnerability over the years – the manipulative lover, the alluring thief, the ambitious careerist – with a considerate brand of charisma as he gently exposes the real drive and soul behind Epstein’s handmade wall of mythology.
This is no easy feat for a boy deflecting a stream of cringe-inducing homoerotic suggestions as Epstein continuously weaves his well versed web of spin. Eventually we do cut through the Fifth Beatle persona, discovering an intolerably lonely figure who remained on the outside throughout, even more so towards the end as he loses his grip of reason which threatens to propel him back to his previous purposeless existence.
This Boy’s conclusion – that Epstein was “a mess and a genius” – is clearly the overriding message behind Sherlock’s sympathetic portrayal who points out at the very start that he has no desire to bury him.
As Brian would be due to turn 80 next month, the play is a must-see opportunity to discover a previously unexplored story and celebrate a mysterious icon of 1960’s popular culture – a man who despite his shortcomings and flaws shaped the lives of The Beatles enough to allow them to shape ours.
Running from 5 August – 6 September 2014 at London’s Leicester Square Theatre, Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles is brought to you by Bill Elms & Jen Heyes Productions Ltd, written by Andrew Sherlock and directed by Jen Heyes.
For more information and tickets go to http://www.leicestersquaretheatre.com/