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Lennon/Royal Court

32 years on, Peter Grant enjoys another Liverpool John giving Power to the people

Written by . Published on September 1st 2013.

Lennon/Royal Court

AUTUMN 1981. We’d lost a Beatle less than a year earlier. John Ono Lennon, Winston erased by deed poll, was hit by five bullets by a mad man.

They echoed around the world. Still do.

Egged on by Ken Campbell, director Bob Eaton turned a simple musical play at the Everyman into a classic.

John Power, not an actor is a revelation,
an inspired choice, portraying a man
who, for many, is still an enigma

I worked at the Everyman as press officer at the time and was as knocked out then as I am now by the passion of his concept which had Mark McGann in the title role.

Bob’s got silver hair now. I have, too, but those memories linger on about that musical and how it became an award-winning hit here, London and abroad.

Lennon Prod Shot 4
Now in 2013 and it’s back with Eaton as writer and director and original Everyman set designer Billy Meall on board - or should that be on boards- too. Howard Gray is a spot on musical director.

With Eaton in control again it is a new but powerful take on his creative baby - more soul -searching. More reflective, deeper.

At first, I thought it would be old hat to bring it back, but Lennon himself believed in reincarnation and he said he would send a white feather down every now and then to those who loved him.

There were some metaphysical feathers floating down when I saw this version.

There is a lot of love in this show. There’s a young feisty Lennon and the older, wiser, white-suited, nearly mature older John.

From Liverpool to Hamburg and back again, we are taken on the "tragical history tour" of Lennon’s high and low points through the songs that are recreated by faultless musicians in the nine-strong cast. 

This time John Power, Cast's singer-songwriter and all round good egg man, is the ghostly Lennon looking back on life with the Fab Three, Epstein, Cynthia, Yoko and everyone who shaped him into writing the magical In My life.

Young Lennon, played by Mark Newnham, has a tough job but copes well, despite little dialogue, to spit out in the famous Lennonesque way.

Jessica Dyas as Aunt Mimi and Cynthia – multi-instrumental as was her predecessor in the role, the late Eithne Hannigan - is a name to look out for.

Just as Willy Russell has updated Our Day Out to much acclaim, this Lennon nods at past performances but has moved on, retaining plenty of affection.

Lennon Prod Shot 2

As a Beatle historian, I found one sequence very moving where Paul McCartney played exceptionally well by Tom Connor, argues with George Harrison, played by the ever growing talent of Matt Breen.

It is wonderfully relayed and illustrates the tension amid the mop top madness. It didn’t involve John which shows how well Mr Eaton has paced and structured this musical.

John Power, not an actor, chews over his words and has a great stage presence. He is a revelation, an inspired choice, portraying a man who, for many, is still an enigma.

We know how the story ends. People in the audience were crying.

They hadn’t seen the original. It doesn’t matter.

John is very much alive in this warm and loving production.


*Lennon plays at the Royal Court, Liverpool, until September 14.

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Judith PattersonSeptember 3rd 2013.

the guy who plays paul McCartney looks very convincing.

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