And In the End: The Death and Life of John Lennon
Jermyn Street Theatre, London
Until June 1
THE intimacy of the theatre should have provided an appropriate setting for Polish-Irish actor Valentine Pelka to perform a memorable in-depth psychoanalysis of the life of Beatles icon John Lennon in this work by playwright Alexander Marshall.
Instead the bland backdrop of the stage and lacklustre lighting simply magnified Pelka’s frequent stumbling over lines and moments of hesitation that prevented the fluidity of his monologue. The constant use of swearwords eventually became common place adjectives, and it was during these welcomed moments where Pelka appeared the most roused.
The play is suitably sub-titled ‘The Death and Life of John Lennon’, an accurate reflection of its chronology as it begins with the moment when John Lennon is shot.
The room is dark and there is a loud blast of gunshots which immediately draws you in. You would hope that it would; Alexander Marshall claims that his play delves further into the side of John Lennon’s life that has yet to be so publicly intruded upon. Unfortunately, the dramatic opening sequence provides the most excitement as the play fails to reach a climax.
The opening scene is then followed by John Lennon finding himself in the vortex between life and death in the presence of ‘The Gatekeepers,’ Martin Bendel, Helen Phillips and Spencer Cowan who took him through the five stages of death: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. ‘The Gatekeepers’ had adopted multiple roles, the acting of which was good, but not great.
Portraying Yoko Ono, Phillips’ kiss with Pelka proved more awkward than awesome and her attempt at a Japanese accent bordered on offensive.
Everything had initially appeared to be set up for the play to showcase a great enactment of Lennon’s turbulent journey through stardom.
Pelka definitely deserved credit for his impressive physical resemblance to him and the nature of both of their Irish descents provided a strong foundation from which to begin. Pelka’s failure to adopt a Liverpool accent, however, meant that the similarities ended here.
The intention behind the play’s direction was clear to see, the playwright wanted this story to be different. In fairness the idea was promising; however, there was neither startling discovery nor shocking revelation about Lennon’s life and the play as a whole underwhelmed.