Theatre Review: Lennon Through A Glass Onion, Epstein Theatre, Liverpool

Written By: Mark Armstrong

Format: Musical
Genre: Comedy Drama
Date: September 6 2016
Location: Epstein Theatre, Liverpool, England

The story of The Beatles, and of John Lennon in particular, has been told countless times, and in a theatre setting, this usually consists of a feel-good round-up of classic Beatles tunes. Lennon Through A Glass Onion, however, is very different, and the show succeeds because of this alternative approach.

Inspired by one of John’s solo hits, Lennon Through A Glass Onion tells the story of his career from the perspective of John himself. Well, from Daniel Taylor who plays John; but he is so authentic in his look, his mannerisms, his dialect and, of course, his singing that many onlookers have noted that when watching this show, for a brief moment you almost forget that you are watching playing the role of Lennon, which is as high a compliment as one could possibly provide.

The storytelling comes in two forms: the music, with the show including plenty of Lennon’s biggest hits and his main contributions to The Beatles, and the dialogue, whereby we are told from a first-person perspective about what Lennon thought and how he approached everything from his schooldays to his initial meeting with Paul McCartney to key events like moving to America, the split of the band and the birth of his first child. And some of Lennon’s more negative traits are acknowledged; it would be wrong to say that they are excused, but there’s almost a sense of pride in Lennon being true to himself, and noting that what seemed like “bad boy” or weird behaviour to others seemed entirely normal to the four lads from Liverpool.

A key member of the team is Stewart D’Arrietta, who does an outstanding job of bringing music to Taylor’s performances via his piano, as well as showcasing some occasional acting skills of his own. Whilst Daniel is front and centre playing the role of John Lennon, it’s clearly a two-man operation, and the show is taken to a higher level thanks to the contributions of D’Arrietta.

It’s interesting to note that besides Daniel playing his guitar and the aforementioned piano soundtrack, no other background music is used during any of the tunes, which is a testament to the skills of the performers. At no point are additional instruments used in famous songs missed or even notable in their absence; the music is different to what we normally hear, but it is so effective that the musical performances are enhanced rather than weakened. Add to that the clever use of colourful lighting and spotlights when appropriate for various songs, the humorous aspects during some of the stories and the chilling manner in which Lennon’s death is handled, along with an almost haunting yet extremely powerful rendition of Imagine to close proceedings, and you have yourself one hell of a show.

Longtime Beatles fans may be disappointed that so many of their most famous numbers are not included in the show. But this is not a Beatles show; it’s a John Lennon show, almost as if Lennon has risen from the dead to tell you his story from his perspective, and that covers his personal life just as much, if not more so, as  his public persona. The language is a bit choice at times, but those who knew and loved Lennon and his bandmates will most likely be of an older age group, so this shouldn’t be a problem to them.

If you get a chance to see Lennon Through A Glass Onion, I highly recommend that you do. Bear in mind that this is by no means a Beatles tribute show, but a unique and very well-presented tale of the life and times of John Lennon. Daniel, Stewart and writer John Waters should be proud of this production; I found it to be exceptional, and would suggest that Lennon fans of all ages should make an attempt to see it.

Overall Rating: 9/10 – Outstanding