It’s been fifty years since John Lennon and Yoko Ono married and took to their bed in a Montreal hotel in the name of peace.
Craft Theatre’s latest production, devised and directed by Rocky Rodriguez Jr, takes some original recordings, some verbatim scripts, and adds artistic license, physical theatre, and a couple of songs to bring the summer of love back to life.
Helen Foster acts as narrator for this piece, hopping with hippy energy. She returns now and then to push the story along, engaging directly with the audience, doing acrobatics, donning a moustache to play ‘Peter from Apple’.
Craig Edgley portrays a flawed Lennon, quick to anger, masking his Scouse accent, strumming his songs (“In My Life”, “Across the Universe”). The woman behind the Beatle, the slight and delicate Yoko Ono, is played by Jung Sun den Hollander, and her quiet energy centres this piece.
The staging in this small and intimate theatre in the round is made up of candles, slogans, rugs, and suspended white flowers. The Lennons are first encountered when they lose their baby in hospital, and their first act after their Gibraltar wedding is to call a press conference which is hijacked by hacks who simply want Beatles gossip.
We hear the tape of the students from Berkeley who gave their lives, put their flowers down the barrel of a gun. We hear from those opposed by racism, sexism and homophobia who dismiss Lennon as a privileged man who cannot truly understand them.
Lyna Dubarry, Amelia Parillon, Thomas Ababio and Joshua McGregor act as various voices throughout – Dubarry (who co-produces with Foster) is both sarcastic feminist and free spirit Krishna; McGregor is a cautious driver who encounters the spirit of friendship; Parillon gives her impassioned speech on civil rights alongside Ababio’s angry depiction of the abusive n word and the danger of having black skin.
The successful pieces to me were the joy of newlyweds and their appropriation of art for peace, but what really clicked was Yoko’s assessment of Lennon as “only a man”, who could only do so much. I liked the depictions of stylised violence but they were crowded out by trivia.
With an unnecessary intermission which dilutes some of the setting and power of the piece, Bed Peace returns to pull in the audience as both observers and participants in the performance of “Give Peace a Chance”.
Sadly, for me, this play was too long, not blackly comedic enough, and suffered from too much hero worship of both John and Yoko. Edgley’s singing is vulnerable and open, and the small cast are surely impassioned, but when productions set in similiar times like Hair still pack a punch, this failed to fully move or inspire me.
Bed Peace continues at the Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone until the 28th April. My thanks to Premier PR for arranging the tickets.