Last night (19 October 2011) Whatsonstage.com theatregoers turned out in force to see the West End premiere of Beatles-based musical Backbeat adapted for the stage by Iain Softley who wrote and directed the 1994 film of the same name. They were also treated to a bumper post-show Q&A attended by the cast and creative team including, as part of our Year of the Producer, producer Karl Sydow

Telling the story of how The Beatles 'became' The Beatles, Backbeat charts the path of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe from the famous docks of Liverpool to the seedy red light district of Hamburg where they worked eight days a week, in the clubs of the tawdry Reeperbahn, performing rock 'n' roll covers night after night. Propelling the story forward is the compelling triangular relationship between the band's original bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, the striking German photographer Astrid Kirchherr whom he fell in love with, and his best friend John Lennon. Stuart's struggle between his best friend and the band; Astrid and his art, makes Stuart the troubled focus of Backbeat. His death, aged only 22, in the same year that the Beatles appointed Brian Epstein as manager, signed to Parlophone Records by Sir George Martin, and released their first single 'Love Me Do', adds to the poignancy of this remarkable and vivid portrait of the early 1960's.

With a strong cast, whom we learned at the post-show Q&A hadn't been able to play before signing on to the project, Backbeat is entertaining not only because it tells an interesting story but also because of the enthusiasm and energy of the whole production. The use of projections and an industrial-style set help to add a sense of gritty reality while a mix of club scenes and tender moments make this a roller-coast ride through the early 60s.

Following the show we were joined by all 5 Beatles - Andrew Knott (John Lennon), Daniel Healy (Paul McCartney) and William Payne (George Harrison), as well as Nick Blood who plays Stuart Sutcliffe and Ruta Gedmintas (Astrid Kirchherras). To add to this already fantastic mix we were also joined by director David Leveaux, producer Karl Sydow and music supervisor Paul Stacey. With so many different elements of the production represented we learnt a little of everything, from why Sydow wanted to produce this show, to Leveaux's guiding word for the production "courage" as well as just how hard it is to prepare to play such iconic characters and how supportive Sutcliffe's sister and the real Kircherrs have been throughout the project.

As always, please feel free to email your comments and thoughts about the play, as well as any of your favourite insights from last night to feedback@whatsonstage.com. We would love to hear from you and look forward to seeing you soon.

Laura Norman
Whatsonstage.com Club Manager