British playwright Alexander Marshall’s play, ‘And in the End: The Death and Life of John Lennon’ was an intriguing, expansive portrait of the rock legend. The perfect portrait, of-course, cannot exist, still this show came across as authentic and knowing.
It was clearly a work of great love and devotion. In his program notes to the play, Marshall wrote about his commitment to get the portrait right. Some of the tasks he undertook included;- reading close to 200 books about Lennon and the Beatles, doing lots of interviews with people who had been close to Lennon, and spending a lot of time in the Liverpool area where Lennon grew up, familiarizing himself with local spots such as ‘Strawberry Fields’ and ‘Penny Lane’, that were later to become immortalised in Beatles songs.
Marshall, who directed the play as well, chose an innovative and effective non-naturalistic approach, that kept the audience engaged. He set the play on the night of December 8, 1980 between the time Lennon was shot to when he died in hospital.
British actor Valentine Pelka played Lennon who sees his life flashing before him; the days in Liverpool, Hamburg, The Beatles, his mother, Yoko, May-Pang, Cynthia, Julian, Sean, Bed-Ins for Peace, and the solo years. At the same time three Gatekeepers of the White Light help Lennon go through the five stages of dying (and lots of other things in life! Refer Elizabeth Kubler-Ross ‘On Death and Dying’)- Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. The Gatekeepers don’t have an easy time getting Lennon to the other side as he has such a strong, intense will to live.
Thankfully, British actor Valentine Pelka, in a fine performance, just got to play John Lennon the man, and didn’t have to turn into a rock star, and recant lots of Lennon classics. My lasting impression of Lennon from ‘And In The End’ was that even more than a great artist Lennon was a great character!
This was a show that entertained from beginning to end. Pelka was well supported by three fine actors, Jonathon Hardy, Andrew Bibby and Yvonne Strzechowski, who played the Gatekeepers of the White Light as well as a variety of other characters from Lennon’s life, often played with a fine comic touch.
During the show there was so much material that came out that even people who have read plenty of Beatles literature are likely to learn something new about the man. For instance, did you know that it was a nightmarish boating voyage that finally got Lennon out of his long writer’s block, and come up with the classic ‘Double Fantasy’?!
The show’s main production feature was the highly effective use of sophisticated laser lighting during the show. Laser lights were used to simulate the shooting of Lennon, and many other incidents. The lighting was quite extraordinary.
All in all, ‘And In The End: The Death and Life of John Lennon’ was one of the highlights of this years’ theatrical calender thus far.