Tweetingit: 4* A snap shot of John Lennon in his immediate post Beatles period. The peace warrior is often lost in the narrative, but recovers for a rousing sing song!
John Lennon once said when the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will be at peace. We might consign these words to history; the product of a bygone age, when love was the answer but flower power failed to launch. With the world falling on a self-destruct button, Lennon’s ideas seem more relevant than ever. Bed Peace is told in the aftermath of the Beatles’ break-up and Lennon’s political activism. The late 60s had witnessed the Prague Spring, student riots, civil rights protest and escalation of the Vietnam War. At the epicentre was John Lennon, a woolly mammoth with bride Yoko Ono in tow.
The opening scenes trace their chaotic honeymoon and bed-in for peace at the Amsterdam Hilton; later immortalised in the Beatles’ final number one, The Ballad of John & Yoko. The media circus followed them to the Queen Elizabeth hotel in Montreal where the bed-in was repeated. The couple’s press conferences became the stuff of legend as one of the great anti-war anthems was written and recorded there.
The Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone has a great atmosphere, recreating the bed-in with a generous helping of peace signs and white bedding. Even though the set is festooned with guitars they were rarely used; yes it is a play and not a musical, but as a Beatles obsessive I was hoping for more than just three songs; a disjointed version of in my Life and a low key Across the Universe was all we got in Act I. They made us wait until the end for that song.
A talented cast double up as reporters and activists as they examine the couple’s motivation; publicity junkies or peace warriors…was Lennon just a middle class white boy jumping on a liberal bandwagon? History may judge him differently, but here and now the answer must unequivocally be no. Lennon told it as he saw it. He was irascible but always compelling in his opinions. He was considered subversive by the FBI and remained on their watchlist for many years. Some even believed he fell victim to a Government hit in New York; it clearly showed how dangerous his opinions were viewed for such theory to gain currency. Put a gun in the hand of a madman and it could have been anyone that day in 1980; it just happened to be Lennon. The tragedy of his passing only adds fuel to the legend.
Whilst the play perfectly illustrates their charisma, John and Yoko sometimes disappear under a deep exposition of American race relations. They were relegated to audience members for much of Act I; as a result the story seemed to lose focus and looked to have ended when it actually broke for the interval. Act II was devoted to the creation and performance of Give peace a chance. A frustrating experience for the audience, as the cast discussed the song’s construction for what seemed like an eternity. But finally the reward arrived; curses! not enough tambourines to go round, so I had to stamp my feet and clap my hands instead. It was a rousing finale to a thoughtful production too often side-tracked by detail. Craig Edgley and Jung Sun Den Hollander deliver a confident portrayal of John and Yoko ably assisted by a strong cast. I can’t help but wonder what Lennon would have made of Brexit. He would have laughed at the mess caused by our politicians; but also saddened by how little times have changed. Will we ever be able to live in peace – let’s hope so?
Devised and Directed by: Rocky Rodriguez Jr
Producers: Helen Foster and Lyna Dubarry
Box Office: 020 7258 2925
Booking Link: https://tickets.thecockpit.org.uk/sales/shows/bed-peace
Booking Until: 28 April 2019