Updated: Tuesday, 18th December 2018 @ 10:53am

Interview: Will Finlason talks The Beatles, counterculture and embodying the soul of 1960’s Liverpool on stage

Interview: Will Finlason talks The Beatles, counterculture and embodying the soul of 1960’s Liverpool on stage

By Gabriella Swerling

Manchester’s rising star of the stage, Will Finlason, talks to Mancunian Matters about his starring role in Liverpool’s tribute to music legend and entrepreneur Brian Epstein in Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles.

The play stars Andrew Lancel (Coronation Street, The Bill, Queer as Folk) as the lead role of Brian Epstein – the music mogul and manager of The Beatles, and newcomer Will Finlason takes on the fictional role of ‘This Boy’ – a fictional character, embodying the spirit and soul of Liverpool during its musical revolution.

The play is set during Epstein’s last days, before his untimely death at the age of just thirty-two. It reveals the unexplored story of the man behind the most successful band in the history of pop music; the man responsible for The Beatles’ rise to superstardom; the man who made The Beatles.

The multi-media play features live music and forms a central part of Liverpool’s 50th anniversary of the city’s most treasured musical export. It is the first major production at the newly refurbished Epstien Theatre, named after Brian and is written by Andrew Sherlock and created and directed by Jen Heyes

Will Finlason trained at the Manchester School of Theatre at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) and graduated into the role of ‘This Boy’. Will manages to take some time off performing to chat about immersing himself in Beatlemania and his respect for whom he calls ‘the fifth Beatle’. This boy is certainly going places.



Your role as the fictional ‘This Boy’ embodies the soul of 1960s Liverpool – can you describe how you play this part?

'This Boy' is a normal young lad from Liverpool, hugely inspired by the Beatles, Brian, his acts and the growing ‘Beat scene’ during a time in Liverpool where you either boxed or played music.  He missed out on going down to the Cavern and seeing and The Beatles by a few years.

He feels like he’s missed out; the Beatles have moved on and he feels a bit hard done by; a feeling shared by a lot of people at that time. This boy is in a way is ‘you’ and ‘me’. He gets to ask questions that many people like us today would want to ask.

He’s talented in many ways, and he’s cheeky with attitude and charm in a way that the audience connect with, and he’s the vehicle that takes us through this journey.


Did you have to do a lot of research for the role? What kind of preparation did you have to go through?

Andrew and I have very different jobs.

Playing a fictional character, I have a lot more freedom. Research into the period and music helped a lot of course, the 60’s interests me madly and I’m a big Beatles fan so its been one big field day getting to live it for four weeks, indulging in my love of Liverpool and the Beatles.


Did you come across any music or films on your journey that particularly inspired you?

Music was an obvious and a must! Researching Brian’s acts and listening to their songs, and other bands from the time. There isn’t anything specific really though I am making a dressing room playlist before we go on stage to help me get in the zone. 

The film The Hours And Times was an interesting watch - to see the way they particularly portrayed Brain and his relationship with someone like John Lennon was useful because I could see the difference between the two, but it didn’t inform my character choices directly.


What’s your take on 60’s culture/counter-culture? How do you implement this in your performance?

Well, it certainly informed my process and was present in almost all of my research. Trying to take myself back to 60’s Liverpool was tough but it’s a time that’s easy to relate to and I understand the general feelings of the time. 

After the mass unemployment and worst housing crisis for years during the 50’s, coming out of the darkness and into this boom of expression and relief - you can just imagine the way people felt! Liverpool was pop capital, with merchant navy workers bringing all these new records, sounds and shared feelings from the States, it was an incredible and liberating time to be young and even an adult. The youth culture took off. 

Growing up in our culture and society today its hugely different, all you need to do is look at footage of those times and listen to the music and lyrics and the freedom of expression all inspired by this and you’re right there - but research was essential.


What is the relationship between ‘This Boy’ and Brian Epstein?

Not wanting to give anything away, ‘This boy’ is the talk and the man in the street and ‘Brain’ is the manager of the best selling musical group of all time with a completely different way of life. 

What can they learn from each other and what is it that would put them in the same room? You’ll have to come and find out.


How were rehearsals compared with performing to an audience?


Rehearsals are done but after our week of preview performances things have still been changing. Coming into the theatre just last week and marrying sound, lighting and a set with ourselves after three weeks of being in a rehearsal room, just the four of us (myself, Andrew Lancel, our Director and creator Jen Heyes and SM Andrew Park) was interesting and really took the play to another level. Everyday things keep getting better. 

The main thing I’ve noticed is how different it is being in a two-hander, there’s no time to sit around and watch the other cast members do their scenes and have a break, there’s only two places all that focus is directed.

It is a lot more tiring and demanding, so keeping my sleep and energy levels high was a big must.  Working so closely you can’t afford to have an off-day and we rely on each other’s energy and focus to bounce off.


What about the accent? Is your Mancunian twang coping with a real Scouse accent?

It’s holding up well, I have a good ear for accents anyway and have a terrible habit for copying accents I hear subconsciously (one of the more embarrassing perks of being an actor) and being half-scouse helps.

Before getting the part I was quite good at the accent and I’ve had positive reactions from our audiences who are generally surprised that I’m Mancunian - either that or they are all just being very polite!

I’m also trying a period accent of the time, but the importance of being confident and with it and it standing up to scrutiny is vital. If it were distracting, it would detract from the piece and ruin the experience!


What productions have you previously been in? What is your earliest memory on stage or performing?

I won’t name all the high school shows because we’d be here forever and they don’t count really, but whilst training I’ve been in the incredible ‘Punk Rock’ by Simon Stephens, ‘Twelfth Night’, I’ve played ‘Swenney Todd’ and the part of “Prior Walter’ in Tony Kushner’s much acclaimed ‘Angels in America’. 

Before graduating I appeared in a world premier of a Carl Davis CBE piece of work called ‘The Last Train to Tomorrow’ at the Bridgewater hall Manchester and now I’m appearing in the world premier of Epstein the man who made the Beatles... But as far as first memories go, I played King Louis in the Jungle Book in year five at Stamford Park Primary School.


What is your favourite Beatles song?

In My Life.  Favourite album? Rubber Soul.


What football team do you support? Are they making you feel welcome in Liverpool?

I’m a very proud Liverpool fan and always have been since my dad offered the choice of Liverpool or the cold hard streets; but I wouldn’t have it any other way and will keep the tradition going for sure! 

Liverpool is very welcoming, as a city it’s very similar to Manchester, but in other ways it is so opposite. I have family here so I’ve grown up through trips over here. I’m also a season ticket holder at Anfield so it’s not been much of a jump.  They definitely support their own here so I didn’t know what to expect being a Mancunian playing a Liverpool lad in such a big role, but the reception has been incredible so far!

I’m relieved and feel very privileged to be up on that stage every night in a play about one of Liverpool’s most-loved sons and hope I can win them over with my contribution.


Anything else you’d like to add?

Everything says it’s the right time for this play. It’s a celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Beatles premiering in the newly refurbished and renamed ‘The Epstein’ theatre in their manager’s honour – and because it’s all in Liverpool, it feels very right! 

He was an incredible, beautiful person - who let’s not forget conquered the world through a telephone! There was no internet back then and he knew nothing about managing acts at first and carved his own way.

He led the way in artist management with his own unique style and pure talent. Without him, I don’t think we’d have Simon Cowell, and the business would be very different. He rewrote the book and in my eyes is definitely the fifth Beatle.

Regardless of if you know a lot or very little about Brian I think everyone will come away having watched the show feeling closer to him, his genius and his contribution to the world of style, music and popular culture and I think everybody should be aware of this!


‘Epstein The Man Who Made The Beatles’ will be playing at the Epstein theatre until Saturday December 1 2012.

For more information please visit: http://epsteintheplay.com/

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