Lennon makes a return to the city after decades of hiatus apparently born of one certain Michael Jackson. The play, created by Eaton shortly after the former Beatles’ death in 1980 and performed on stage just a year later, began at the Everyman and travelled as far as off Broadway and the West End. Featuring many group and solo hits, when Jacko snapped up the Fab Four’s musical rights it put paid to any further public performance, so the story goes. Until now.
Modern-day Beatlemania can be so trite, so artless, a money-making machine that ploughs on way out of even its inventors’ hands or reach. However, this revival is not only timely (to mark what would have been Lennon’s 70th birthday), but also, surprisingly, very good.
The show does seem to have its heart in the right place and seams together so many musical highlights you would have to be dead not to be tapping your feet or even involuntarily singing aloud to the string of hits it includes, spanning such iconic moments from the first meeting of Lennon and McCartney to John and Yoko’s Bed In.
Drew Schofield – last seen in a very different guise just last week in a BBC4 rerun of Boys From the Blackstuff – puts in something that could be a career-defining role as Lennon. For a long time, his musical chops have been a huge asset to the Royal Court ‘rep’, and his considered and thoughtful portrayal is intelligent and soulful. Like the man himself, you can’t help but be charmed.
Stephen Fletcher, as Paul McCartney, for the first time in a while is given something to get his teeth into and steps into character with relish. Newcomer Danny Healy, as the young John, is also captivating. Maria Lawson as Yoko adds a welcome and commanding feminine touch. And also deserving of a mention is Jonathan Markwood, who glues the piece together with several supporting roles, from Ed Sullivan to George Martin to Elton John. All the cast play multiple roles – and instruments – and are a remarkable team.
You know it ain’t easy. And too often, Beatles tributes soldier on regardless of quality. But the Royal Court has the right cast and crew together on this to tell one of the most colourful stories of 20th Century cultural history with care, attention – and, finally, the music.
Lennon runs until November 13. For more information see the Royal Court website.
Pics by Dave Evans