A Life With The Beatles

Aug 16 2015 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩     Cleverly angled retelling

Sweet Grassmarket (Venue 17): Thurs 6 – Sun 30 August 2015

Engaging and informative, A Life With The Beatles tells a familiar story in an unusual way.

Anyone who was ever a teenage Beatles obsessive will instantly recognise the name of Neil Aspinall. Anyone else may be unaware of the Fab Four’s one-time driver and roadie, who later became their personal assistant and later still the chief executive of their company Apple Corps. Despite the character’s protests here, he is the man who comes as close as anyone to deserving the elusive ‘fifth Beatle’ tag.

Ian Sexon in A Life with the Beatles.

Ian Sexon. Photo: A Life with the Beatles.

It is this figure – central to the Beatles’ history, thoroughly loyal to their memory and oddly unknown – who tells the story in Stella Danzante Productions’ offering at Sweet Grassmarket. Davide Verazzani’s Italian original, translated by Edinburgh-based Sabrina Macchi, tries to shed new light on often-told events, and for the most part succeeds.

There are problems with the focus, however. There will be few revelations to anyone who knows the story, while there are some points that may baffle the neophyte. It is explained in great detail who Pete Best is, for example, but a couple of throwaway references to ‘Mal’ go unexplained, although Mal Evans – a fellow member of the inner circle whose name is invariably bracketed with Aspinall’s – is surely the more obscure figure to the general public.

The early days are told in great detail, while there is virtually nothing dealing with the years after 1967, which might in many ways have been the most interesting. There is too much stress on Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band being the Beatles’ high-water mark, a view not everyone would share, and a bafflingly long amount of time is spent suggesting the orchestral crescendo in A Day In The Life is some kind of key moment in Western culture.

sympathetic and skilful

Despite such drawbacks, the production is an energetic and attractive one. Ian Sexon’s performance is sympathetic and skilful. His facility for accents leads to several excellent impersonations, notably an excellent George Martin, while his four Beatle voices are well differentiated and instantly recognisable even when he is playing both sides of a conversation between them and Neil. In particular, his Paul is nicely underplayed in comparison to the over-the-top version most people opt for.

Director Andy Corelli Jones uses the space well, and keeps things varied and moving. There are some odd choices in the production, such as the building up of a peculiar folk-art style representation of Peter Blake’s legendary Pepper collage jigsaw-style. The use of snatches of music is not universally successful – there are too many of them, and they are too short, for them to have much impact.

It’s been suggested by some benighted souls that the Beatles are not as relevant as they once were, but attempts such as this to find new slants on their story suggest otherwise. A splendid time may not be guaranteed for all, but an interesting and value-for-money one can be.

Running time 1 hour
Sweet Grassmarket (Venue 17) Apex International Hotel, Grassmarket, EH1 2HS
Thursday 6 – Sunday 30 August 2015,
Daily at 5.15 pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/life-with-the-beatles

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