"If you can remember the Sixties, you weren't there" has become something of a cliche, but maybe that explains why the inside story of Brian Epstein, the man who made the Beatles, has not been explored to any extent.
There are Mersey-loads of plays, books and musicals about the Fab Four, but the man behind the scenes has always been an enigma. In this new play, first produced as part of the Beatles' 50th anniversary in 2012, Andrew Sherlock focuses on the complicated man who changed the music scene forever.
Andrew Lancel (Coronation Street, The Bill) is phenomenal as Epstein, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the man, and showing all his flaws, the paranoia, loneliness and vulnerability, without ever descending into caricature. The eponymous blue-jeaned "This Boy", played with an intelligent charm by Will Finlason, provides the foil for Epstein to reveal his secrets.
He's also a lot more than that, representing the Liverpool that Epstein and the Beatles left behind, the accusations of mismanagement and betrayal of their roots. And ultimately, he represents the love that Epstein was never able to find, resorting instead to meeting young men in clubs and taking them home.
The simple staging of Epstein's up-market flat provides the backdrop for monochrome projections from the time which heighten the sense of just how much of a global phenomenon the Beatles were and still are. An interview with Epstein after Ed Sullivan claimed that he had discovered the group, sends shivers down the spine, so eerily accurate is Lancel's portrayal.
Epstein is also an exploration of the sudden, overwhelming stress that invades the lives of those finding fame. Yet Epstein is also shown as jealous of the attention the Beatles received and hurt by an apparent lack of appreciation, feeling he was being sidelined as the boys went off to India to commune with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi or as they worked with George Martin. It's a warts-and-all pills and booze depiction of the man, but told with such warmth and empathy that you are left wondering how pop music might be today had he not died at the tragically young age of 32.
Whether you remember the Sixties or not, Epstein is a thoroughly satisfying theatrical experience. Do. Not. Miss.