Review Round-up: Did Backbeat Rock the Critics?
Backbeat chronicles the band's beginnings when Stuart Sutcliffe, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best left Liverpool for Hamburg, searching for their big break.
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"In Softley’s own adaptation with Stephen Jeffreys, Andrew Knott’s jeering, sneering Lennon yields centre stage to the tragic, tortured figure of Nick Blood’s terrific Stuart Sutcliffe ... The narrative weaves artfully through the hardest, meanest rock ‘n’ roll I’ve ever heard on a West End stage ... The show’s like a painting itself, conjuring not only Stu’s manic splurges in the style of Jackson Pollock, but the grimy underworld of Hamburg on the Reeperbahn ... This use of projections is the weak spot in an otherwise brilliant design by Christopher Oram and Andrew D Edwards ... Daniel Healey sketches in Paul McCartney’s flip intelligence very nicely, and Will Payne is suitably blank, onstage and off, as George Harrison. This isn’t just another jukebox musical, nor is it another brain-dead tribute show. It’s a beautifully wrought and darkly cynical evocation of an era, and a particular place, as the Beatles found their inimitable voice through the grit and virility of the pounding music they loved still to play even as their own more lyrical, musically complex compositions poured forth over the next decade. For once, you really do feel like dancing in the aisles at the end."
- Natalie Generalovich