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TV REVIEW: Lennon Naked/BBC 4 Wednesday 22 June

Even Mitch Poole is convinced by Christopher Eccleston in the latest Beatles bio

Published on June 24th 2010.


TV REVIEW: Lennon Naked/BBC 4 Wednesday 22 June

ONE of the reasons that I can’t enjoy Beatles tribute bands is that I immediately see the failings.

All credit to Christopher Eccleston, a 46-year-old playing Lennon as a 26-year-old, getting his kit off for the famous Two Virgins shoot and playing it naked.

Hard as they try and good as they may be they will always fail, simply because, well, they aren’t The Beatles. I am a fan see. So they are always gouing to disappoint.

The same goes for biopics – the flaws leap up at me and spoil the illusion. I cringed and winced through Backbeat.

But BBC 4’s Lennon Naked won me over. I was able to suspend criticism and accept it and enjoy it as a great piece of drama. Sure it was flawed in parts, Christopher Eccleston’s voice wasn’t quite right and the guy playing McCartney at times sounded as though he was stoned (maybe that was how he intended to sound) but these were very minor niggles.

This was the BBC at its best. It was high quality, movie-standard production. The script was accurate and tight and the dialogue excellent. Eccleston, as Lennon, was superb; capturing the bitterness and angst, the cynicism, the wit and sometimes the nastiness of this complex man.

It told the story of the young John Lennon being forced to choose between living with either his mother or father at the age of six. He chose his mother only then to be passed over by her and handed over to his aunt who, as we all know, brought him up in the middle class prosperity of Menlove Avenue.

The TV drama unfolded as we saw him reuniting with his father at the height of Beatlemania after an absence of 17 years. It then followed their fractious relationship through the breakup of his marriage to Cynthia, the breakup of The Beatles and the ironic abandonment of his own child, Julian, at the age of seven when John found Yoko and they embarked on their own voyage of discovery.

Cleverly and seamlessly interspersing original Beatle newsreel footage into the drama gave the production realism and matched with the perfect period and historic detail. The crazy intensity and claustrophobia of his 1960s life was spread before us; his seeming imprisonment as a Beatle within the Beatles; his marriage and even within his Weybridge home, until finding release, escape and freedom through a Japanese artist.

All credit to Christopher Eccleston, a 46-year-old playing Lennon as a 26-year-old, getting his kit off for the famous Two Virgins shoot and playing it naked.

He captured the essence of Lennon, managing to portray his strength of presence, his intensity, his caustic, often cruel, humour and also his ability to diffuse and charm with a witticism.

The press conference scenes based on actual dialogue were brilliantly done; Lennon getting intense and wound up by the media and then charming them with a quip. All credit to

Christopher Fairbank was excellent in his portrayal of Freddie, Lennon’s errant father, as was Rory Kinnear in his brief role as Brian Epstein. The rapport, tension and affection between Lennon and Epstein was depicted wonderfully. Epstein came across as the father figure Lennon needed.

Catch this when it hits BBC1 or have a look now on the iPlayer. It is time well spent.

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