Donna Jackson, our Beatles Examiner London correspondent, saw the John Lennon tribute “Lennon — Through a Glass Onion,” on its second night at the Epstein Theatre in Liverpool. She said the gorgeous venue was the perfect place. “There really is no better setting in Liverpool for a Beatles-related play.” But she wondered if the show would live up to the reputation of the venue and looking at it objectively, she admitted the performance had some limitations. “Daniel Taylor, who plays John, seemed to be struggling with some of the songs and this was only the second night of the run,” she said. “There were also some technical hitches with the sound, and the script was seemingly little more than quotations from John strung together.”
But despite that, she said she loved the show. “For me, he (Taylor) captured the very essence of John Lennon,” she said. “Even when he occasionally stumbled over his lines, or appeared nervous, he brought to life John’s vulnerability. And, throughout, John’s humor, frustration at some of the restrictions of being a Beatle – most apparent in the somewhat stilted Beatle bows at the end of some of the songs – and yes, his arrogance at times, were apparent. Daniel Taylor may not have been John-the-wonderful-performer, but he absolutely nailed John-the-human-being.”
The show is not a chronological re-telling of John’s life, but a series of memories told in monologue form by Taylor, accompanied by bits of songs that highlight key moments or themes of John’s life. Jackson said 36 bits of music are featured during the show by Taylor accompanied by Stewart D’Arrietta on piano. More of the songs were from Lennon’s solo career, she said, which might explain Yoko’s support for the show, but there were also a good selection of Beatles songs.
“The script, largely based on famous quotations from John’s life, offered nothing new,” Jackson said. “Rather it played into many of the stereotypes of John’s life: John the messenger for peace; Yoko, the love of John’s life; John, the rebel. But, for me, the value and beauty of the show went much further than the music or the script. The real magic was the way that it made me feel and the memories that it awakened. It’s very easy, living in Liverpool and volunteering at St Peter’s, to let the Beatles history and heritage overwhelm my love of the band. It’s constantly all around me to such an extent that I very rarely listen to Beatles music in the car. However, when I walked out of the Epstein Theatre, all I wanted to listen to on the way home was John.”
She said the show and the Lennon quotations made her recall why she fell in love with Lennon and his music when she was 15 in the first place. “A school friend lent me her copy of ‘John Lennon Plastic Ono Band’ with the words, ‘I think you’ll like this.’ From that moment I was hooked but through the years, and especially being so inundated with all things Beatles here in Liverpool, complacency had set in.” The format of “Lennon — Through a Glass Onion,” a dialogue between him and the audience, which gives a warmth and intimacy to the words and the music of John Lennon, brought the memories back, she said.
“The years fell away and, for a moment, I remembered how I felt when my 15-year-old self had been touched by the heart and soul of John Lennon. And for that, Daniel Taylor, Stewart D’Arrietta, and everyone involved with this production, I am forever grateful. And it’s why I loved this show.” The play runs through April 29 at the Epstein Theatre. Tickets are available at the box office or through the theater website.