Pauling mesmerises as tortured soul behind Beatles success
PLAY: Epstein – The Man Who Made The Beatles
DIRECTOR: Fred Abrahamse
CAST: Nicholas Pauling and Sven Ruygrok
VENUE: Theatre On The Bay until October 17
REVIEWER: Peter Tromp
“Nicholas Pauling may be the actor whose shows I have reviewed the most in my career. My history with this gifted performer goes all the way back to when he was still in drama school, where the buzz circling around him was always super palpable. Although I haven’t found every performance of his to my liking over the years, there is no denying the impressiveness of the body of work that Pauling has amassed in more than a decade of being a professional. Whereas many of his contemporaries have seen their careers peter out, Pauling has remained in constant demand. His career trajectory has been one of progression; of constant improvement. That’s what one wants to see as a theatregoer – a performer who does not rest on their laurels.
Fred Abrahamse’s absorbing production of Andrew Sherlock’s ‘Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles’ presents the performer at the peak of his powers, inhabiting a dizzyingly complex role with grace and subtlety. The play gives us a fictional account of Beatles manager Brian Epstein’s last night alive, spent in the company of a young man he picks up at a bar and takes to his ultra-modern (for the time) apartment, an aspiring, undercover reporter who calls himself This Boy (a commanding, charismatic Sven Ruygrok). The Epstein of the play is an emotionally disintegrating figure, one who deals with his loneliness by consuming copious amounts of alcohol and pills.
Sherlock’s script can hit the emotional cue points a little too hard for my liking, at times laying out in words exactly how the audience should feel about Epstein and his predicament, instead of letting the characters just naturally express the play’s underlying themes. That being said, Ruygrok and Pauling play beautifully off each other and provide something truly memorable and affecting.
It’s Pauling’s mesmeric turn that will haunt you for months to come, though. Pauling has never been braver on a stage in this evocation of a deeply troubled and vulnerable soul that gave the world its greatest rock band.”