- Many regard Allan Williams, the self-proclaimed ‘man who gave
the Beatles away’, as rock’s ultimate loser, the small-time coffee-bar
owner who missed out on millions. The Man Who Gave The Beatles Away,
a new musical by Irish playwright Ronan Wilmot, running at the New
Theatre in Dublin from October to December 2002, shows, very affectionately,
that he wasn’t the man for the job and was better suited to running
slightly shady clubs in his beloved Liverpool. The play features
both a young and an old Allan Williams (Darren McHugh and Pearse
Butler, respectively) and when the younger man asks the other, "Was
it worth it?", he responds, "You bet." Of course, because Williams’s
life has been transformed by his brief association with the Beatles:
he is now a globe-trotting pensioner guesting at one Convention
after another, and a second volume of his memoirs will appear in
has to be dramatic licence, so I never expect a biographical play
to offer total accuracy. As this musical is based on Williams’ own
hyperbolic reminscences, I expected even less, but it doesn’t matter.
The Man Who Gave The Beatles Away tells you much about Allan Williams’s
relationship with the Beatles and is performed with such enthusiasm
that you are sucked into the story. Almost everywhere though, something
is wrong - this John Lennon plays bass and the play has you believe
that they wrote "I’ll Get You" in 1960 and performed "Twist And
Shout" (with Neil O’Farrell as Paul on lead vocal) before it was
even recorded by the Isley Brothers. They have their Hamburg sound
long before they reach Hamburg and if that were so, Williams would
have been incredibly naive not to recognise their potential.
Wilmot shows that the leader of the Beatles was John Lennon. On
the opening night, Allan’s former wife, Beryl, said, "You’ve got
John Lennon exactly right. He always had to have the last word."
And a funny one at that. Allan’s marriage to a Liverpool Chinese
girl, played by Secret Huang, is well handled, but, in reality,
there was opposition from both families to this match.
Butler is very good as the elder Williams and his ten minute monologue
about his childhood and the death of his mother is a tour de force.
Three of Butler’s sons are in the band - Kevin (John Lennon), Daragh
(George Harrison) and Damien (Tommy Moore, Norman Chapman and Pete
Best - presumably Beatle drummers before Ringo Starr were interchangeable!).
They are not lookalikes but you can believe in the characters they
are playing. To the accompaniment of "You Really Got A Hold On Me",
the death of Stu Sutcliffe (Anthony Fox) is handled very sympathetically
- although the author should have included Williams’s take on what
had happened and surely Stu’s girlfriend, Astrid Kirchherr (Martha
Van der Bly), always wore black. Allan Williams fell out with the
Beatles over the payment of 10 per cent commission and, with hindsight,
this was fortunate as it paved the way for Brian Epstein.
they say in the business, The Man Who Gave The Beatles Away has
legs and is expected to travel to Liverpool and other parts of the
UK. It is not difficult to stage and would be perfect for any Beatles
convention, perhaps with a third Allan Williams to hand with his