Earlier this summer I was reading through ‘What’s on at Cheltenham Town Hall’ and amongst the tribute bands, revival bands and comedians was a play that had been successfully staged off-Broadway, ‘John Lennon : Through a Glass Onion.’ Being of the baby-boomer generation I had grown up through the Beatles Era. I had even been taken to see ‘Help’ by various family members, my favourite song was ‘Hide your love away’, even as child the idea of keeping your feelings hidden resonated with me. In those days I would have named Ringo as my favourite Beatle, but I was only about eight and he always seemed happy. Paul was the good looking one, George the quiet one and John was a bit of a rebel. Over the years though it was John who interested me the most. Intelligent, controversial, outspoken, artistic, with a quick working-class wit and a tender side that comes through in his music. One of the simplest, raw-ish love songs I know is written by him, ‘Love is real’, and, of course, there is the idealistic ‘Imagine’. I booked two tickets.
About a week before the performance I was contacted by the box office to inform me the venue had changed, instead of the main hall it was now in the Pillar Room. This room is actually the bar area which can accommodate around 300 seats. I was surprised at the low ticket sales but this wasn’t the right venue. The play-going population of Cheltenham would be checking out the ‘Everyman’ or the Bacon theatre. Yet it had also slipped by the music lovers. Those of us who did attend had the luxury of being able to sit with our drinks and enjoy a more intimate experience than theatre normally allows.
There was no scenery yet we knew immediately we were in John and Yoko’s apartment in the Dakota Building in New York. Daniel Taylor, dressed in double-denim, round glasses and chewing gum, looked out at us whilst making observations about the ‘fan’ standing across the road. The only other person on the stage was keyboardist, Stewart D’Arrietta. John reflects back on his extraordinary life taking us inside his goldfish bowl using the humour and self-deprecation that is recognizable from interviews. At times he flares in anger at; British racism, the press, even himself. Throughout snippets of music, played live by Daniel and Stewart, enhance the words giving deeper meaning to both.
Half-way through was a break and John exchanged the denim shirt for a khaki-green US Army shirt to talk about his peace movements attempts and his life in New York. He once famously said ‘life is what happens when you’re making other plans’ and the sense that he reacted to life rather than shaped it himself comes through in this play
Most of the audience were from the baby-boomer generation, including the lady next to me. She told me that she would have loved to have seen him live but never had the chance, now she felt she had. Daniel’s performance not only gave us a chance to relive John’s music but gain a glimpse into an extraordinary life. The four bullets, that sealed John’s fate that night, close the play, turning the performance into a memorial.
At a time when the world seems further away from the lyrics of ‘Imagine’ than ever, maybe now is the time to resurrect that vision.