As previously tipped, the stage version of Backbeat, the award-winning 1994 British film about the early years of the Beatles, will receive its West End premiere this autumn.

The play, written by the film’s creator Iain Softley and directed in the West End by David Leveaux, will open on 10 October 2011 (previews from late September, exact date tbc) at London’s Duke of York’s Theatre, where it’s initially booking until 24 March 2012. West End tickets for Backbeat go on sale today.

Set during ‘the Hamburg Years’ in the early 1960s before the band became successful and world famous, Backbeat centres on the triangular relationship between Stuart Sutcliffe, the band’s original bassist and an accomplished painter, his best friend John Lennon, and Astrid Kirchherr, the beatnik German photographer who Sutcliffe fell in love with. Struggling with his various loyalties, Sutcliffe eventually chose Astrid and art over the Beatles and music.

Sutcliffe handed over his guitar to Paul McCartney just before Beatlemania took off. Shortly after leaving the band, he died in Hamburg, at the age of just 22, of a brain haemorrhage. His portrait featured on the Beatles’ album cover for Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Backbeat includes live onstage performances of various songs the Beatles “cut their teeth with”, including ‘Twist & Shout’, ‘Rock & Roll Music’, ‘Long Tall Sally’ ‘Please Mr Postman’ and ‘Money’.


Isabella Calthorpe as Astrid Kirchherr and Alex Robertson as Stuart Sutcliffe in the stage play of
Backbeat at Glasgow Citizens Theatre in February 2010.

The film of Backbeat, also co-written and directed by Softley, starred Stephen Dorff as Sutcliffe, Sheryl Lee as Astrid Kirchherr and Ian Hart.

The stage play received its world premiere at Glasgow Citizens Theatre in February 2010, when Alex Robertson and Isabella Calthorpe starred as Sutcliffe and Kirchherr, with Andrew Knott (as Lennon), Daniel Healy (Paul McCartney), Jamie Blackley (George Harrison) and Oliver Bennett (Pete Best). Casting has not yet been confirmed for the West End.

Backbeat is co-written by Stephen Jeffreys, with musical direction by Paul Stacey. It’s produced by Karl Sydow, who commented today: “Backbeat at the Duke of York’s Theatre will allow people the experience of being at the birth of the Beatles. It tells a story that many music fans may not know, set to a musical backdrop that absolutely defined the early Sixties. Next year will mark 50 years since the Beatles released their first single, and I am proud to be bringing their early days to life in the West End.”

Currently at the Duke of York’s, David Grindley's production of RC Sherriff's Journey's End has returned to the West End for a seven-week season to 3 September 2011 as part of its national tour.