Review: ‘Lennon’ at the Royal Court

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John Power sings 'Give Peace a Chance' in 'Lennon' © Royal Court Liverpool

John Power sings ‘Give Peace a Chance’ in ‘Lennon’ © Royal Court Liverpool

How do you act out the part of a genuine icon – with no training or experience as an actor?

Singer John Power has not only managed to do justice to the task after taking on the title role of ‘Lennon’ at the Royal Court Theatre, he also brings musical integrity and credibility to the stage with his convincing portrayal of ‘Beatle John’.

Power, more famous as a musician with Scouse groups The La’s and Cast, initially turned down the role twice when producers invited him to try his hand at acting, but he eventually found the lure of the challenge too much to resist.

The gamble appears to have paid off well for all concerned… but then again, how much of a risk was it?

Bob Eaton’s Lennon script, which was given its stage debut at Liverpool’s Everyman featuring Mark McGann in 1982 (the first play I ever saw), has returned to the city after a three-year absence, and things can never go far wrong when the production features more than 40 Beatles and John Lennon numbers.

Although snatches of fast-paced dialogue pull the narrative together, Power – who plays the older Lennon and also the show’s narrator – spends much of his time on stage belting out the classic hits, and for that task he is certainly more than qualified.

It is the unforgettable and timeless music that forms the flesh, bones, heart and soul of this production and with such an incredible catalogue of songs at their disposal, the ensemble cast of talented actor/musicians make the most of the opportunity to deliver an outstanding evening’s entertainment.

John Power plays the title role in 'Lennon' opposite Kirsten Foster as Yoko Ono © Royal Court Liverpool

John Power plays the title role in ‘Lennon’ opposite Kirsten Foster as Yoko Ono © Royal Court Liverpool

Notable contributions are made by the likes of Mark Newnham who plays the young Lennon, and the excellent Tom Connor who manages an uncanny performance as Paul McCartney, without descending into parody and outright mimicry.

From his first appearance as the young Macca in a scene where he meets Lennon at the now famous 1957 Woolton Church Fete, Connor’s first word (a simple ‘hello’) and trademark McCartney wave had the audience laughing and later captivated by his eerily accurate Paul.

Jonathan Markwood deserves special mention for his energetic and often remarkable performance as a whole host of characters from The Beatles’ back story, including among many others George Martin and Ed Sullivan.

Ultimately, the music is the ‘star’ in Lennon and for anyone who loves or even just likes The Beatles, this is definitely a show worth catching and most especially in their home town.

Lennon runs at the Royal Court until September 14.

About John Mathews, Editorial Director