“I feel like I know Pete Best now.”
That’s what my friend said last night after we had been to see Stephen Kennedy’s play, Pete Best Of The Beatles, at The Complex in Dublin. She summed it up perfectly; no matter how familiar you think you might be with the former Beatles drummer’s story, this play will give you a new outlook on events.
I’m fortunate to know Stephen pretty well. I first met him when I volunteered at the inaugural Dublin Beatles Festival in 2013, which he co-organised. He is undoubtedly one of Ireland’s foremost Beatles experts and has written several plays about them, including Death and the Beatles Fan, John Lennon’s Last Day and Lennon v McCartney, all of which I’ve seen and wholeheartedly recommend. So I was excited to see Pete Best Of The Beatles, and it didn’t disappoint.
The play gives us the full story of Pete Best’s two years with The Beatles, and subsequent dismissal from the band, from his perspective. The role is played by Padraic McGinley, and he does a fantastic job. His engaging performance, along with the use of music and photographs, makes the audience feel part of the story.
We hear about how Pete came to join The Beatles and the influence his mother, Mona Best, had on the band during that time. Their adventures in Hamburg are also documented, as well as their early recording sessions and record label auditions, and the relationship between Pete and his bandmates.
Even after all this time, no one can quite agree on the reason behind Pete’s sacking. Was it that his drumming wasn’t quite good enough? Was his personality the wrong fit for the band? Did his bandmates feel he was attracting too much attention from fans? These have all been suggested, and perhaps it was down to a combination of factors. The play doesn’t come to a concrete conclusion on the subject, but it does reflect the confusion and hurt that Pete felt at the callous way he was ejected, just as The Beatles were about to become stars.
But the story doesn’t end with that fateful meeting in Brian Epstein’s office. We also hear what happened next for Pete — the emotional difficulties that followed, the attempts to revive his music career which ended in disappointment, leaving the industry behind, and then finally turning things around by forming a new band, with whom he still tours to this day and is much in demand.
It would be easy to think of Pete Best as the unluckiest guy in music, but as we are reminded, for two years he was a member of the greatest band of all time. How many people can say that?
Pete Best Of The Beatles is a thoroughly well-researched and excellently performed play which is sure to make you think about its subject in a new way.