Writer: Andrew Sherlock
Director: Jen Heyes
Reviewer: Jamie Gaskin
The assertion that Epstein was the man who made the Beatles is often regarded as a simply truth. But who or what made Epstein, just what made him tick? While the simple narrative of Epstein the pushy Jewish, gay, posh kid with a penchant for rough sex is well chronicled, director Jen Heyes and writer Andrew Sherlock delved into the inner man.
With the excellent talents of Andrew Lancel as the eponymous hero we see a man who had conquered the pop world of the 60s but sadly, was only superficially confident. In fact Epstein was something of a loner, who exuded frailty and was underneath it all very needy. A man who found it difficult to trust anyone and who always expected to be let down by anyone he allowed get close to him.
It is perhaps almost ironic that Lancel’s roots are in Merseyside and he too has achieved much wider fame as a soap star with international credits to his name. In this play, Epstein flirts with the idea of letting a young man he fancies write a biography about the him. As they spar Lancel gives a bravura performance as he slowly exposes the fears and passions that drive him. The more Epstein tells himself that his world could not be better we realise it clearly could.
The young, man he fancies in this delightful two-hander is simply called This Boy. This tongue-in-cheek name was was typical of the glances at Beatles song titles and lyrics which adorned the dialogue. The simple and early I Want To Hold Your Hand becoming a hard-felt plea from the very man who made sure The Beatles many love songs reached the four corners of the world. This Boy was played by Will Finlason, who took on the challenge well. This pivotal rôle was more than just a sounding board device for Epstein to tell us about himself.
It needed both power and subtlety charges as Finlason was charged with gripping the audience from the start with the prologue and also sending them home fulfilled with his epilogue. I am not convinced that the epilogue in particular was necessary. Indeed, there were parts of the first act where I felt myself drifting through any real feeling…But overall a well conceived and developed idea. A story that deserves telling.
Heyes light touch with direction paid dividends once the play had got into its stride with the players prowling the stage. Lancel in particular showing the glint-eyed alertness of an animal keeping a sharp eye out for predator. Excellent use of film to remind us of past episodes and the clever lighting techniques to denote an occasional short-scene change within the main set prove to be a great concept within the piece.
So Sherlock and Heyes are suggesting that while he was revered and acclaimed and could have sex when he wanted the only real love affair he had was with his alter ego: The Man Who Made the Beatles.