Book/Music/Director: Francis Duffy
Reviewer: Jamie Gaskin
This is not so much a walk down Penny Lane as a saunter down the Memory Lane of Liverpool in the early 60s. Days when local pop show posters proudly trumpeted the names “John, Paul, George and … Pete”.
The show is much more of a musical than a play and offers some good original songs from its creator Francis Duffy. Sadly, the play structure is a little stilted with much of the narrative delivered through single characters proclaiming to the audience.
Pete Best, often known as the Fifth Beatle, was the group’s drummer during its tough early years from 1960 to 1962, including the Hamburg tour. The narrative skates over the showdown between Best and its equally famous manager Brian Epstein. Instead, the play largely sees these events through the eyes of two fans who win Pete’s friendship by stalking him in his garden in the middle of the night.
After a slightly shaky start the two girls (one Pearl and one Plain) deliver some chirpy banter. Although some of the dialogue does sound like an interview with a fanzine, the girls deliver it with good rhythm, energy and wit. It’s not until the after the interval there is some real grit when the Pearl, Cathy, played by Leah Wallace, falls out with Plain Pat (Faye Caddick) over whom Pete really loves. The Pearl wins. But Caddick nearly steals the show with her heartfelt monologue about always being the rejected one at dances and on the school bus. Seemingly only able to bask in Cathy’s sunshine.
The object of their desires Pete Best is played initially in quite an excellent understated manner by Andrew Games. But this early happy-go-lucky tones turn to anger when he realises the full truth and where it leaves him. Pete seems unable to pick himself up but happily, love straightens him out.
Francis Duffy himself lines up on stage with The Black Ties to become The Bestbeat band. The music really lifts the show and our leading ladies Wallace and Caddick know how to sell a song and win much approval.
A rolling loop of the stars and pop posters of the period provide a delightful backdrop on an otherwise sparse set. It does feel that when all is clear the show does not know quite when to end and limps along a bit.
Not the best of shows but its music and its heart drum up plenty of applause. As it points out Pete is the only one to stay close to his roots.
Runs until 5 May 2018 | Image: Contributed