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A CurtainUp London London Review
And in the End — The Death and Life of John Lennon

The guitar is all very well as a hobby, John, but you'll never make a living out of it. — Mimi
Alexander Marshall's play about John Lennon is one man's tribute to the Beatles star who lost his life in New York in December 1980 when he was shot by Mark David Chapman. Lennon liked New York. He said, “New York is like a massive version of Liverpool.” A great deal of biographical material about Lennon is fitted into the show which takes place immediately after John has been shot and for which the author uses the template of the Five Stages of Grief and Grieving as described by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance to divide his play.

Marshall's material may have little that is revelatory as the Beatles have been the subject of many biographies and much else has been written or filmed about them but Valentine Pelka looks convincingly like John Lennon and has the Liverpudlian accent off to a t. The wig however, which goes back to the Bill Zygmant photograph of John with his hair worn long and with a centre parting, screams wig at us and mars what is a very good performance.

When you look at the programme it is like a piece of vanity publishing with six photographs of the author with some of the people he met who knew Lennon while researching this play. These images leave an uncomfortable feeling that here is one man's obsession with the Beatle. Of course what was important about John Lennon was his musicianship and apart from the music played before the play starts, which many of the audience chatter through, this music is what the main part of the play is missing.

For those who know little about the Beatles, there is an overview of John's career, his two wives, Cynthia and Yoko Ono (Helen Philips) and some of the people like his Aunt Mimi, her husband George (Martin Bendel) and his manager, the well spoken Brian Epstein (Spencer Cowan).

There are samples of John's poetry; we are told he was inspired in his childhood by Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and Richmal Crompton's Just William stories. Some of that dry Liverpudlian wit is on display, “Going to church doesn't any more make you a Christian than going to a garage makes you a car!” The supporting cast of three are the supposed gatekeepers who plays all the other roles.

We hear that John hated the screaming fans that populated his audiences and in the section Depression, he tells us that he “thought success would buy us freedom but it was just the opposite.” And in the End — The Death and Life of John Lennon sadly relives a part of John Lennon's life from anecdote and impressive though the performance is, the material lacks depth and revelation.

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And in the End — The Death and Life of John Lennon
Written and directed byAnd in the End — The Death and Life of John Lennon,

Starring Valentine Pelka
With: Martin Bendel, Helen Phillips, Spencer Cowan
Lighting: Andy Grange
Art Direction: Shannon MacDonald
Running time: Two hours 05 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 020 7287 2875
Booking to 1st June 2013
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 14th May 2013 at the Jermyn Street Theatre, 16B Jermyn Street London SW1Y 6ST (Tube: Piccadilly Circus)

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