And in the End

Alexander Marshall
Marshall + Cole Theatricals ltd
Jermyn Street Theatre

Valentine Pelka as John Lennon

And in the End is a captivating depiction of the life of a troubled genius and is recommendable for anyone, particularly John Lennon fans.

The piece takes the form of an autobiographical recall set in the moments following Lennon’s fatal shooting. He is confronted by the gatekeepers to his past, and forced to tell his story to a higher power (it is deliberately unclear until the end whether this is Death or God). Through the five stages of death (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) we are taken through the story of Lennon’s life.

Beginning with Lennon’s childhood and school days, the story follows the Beatles’ rise to fame, his marriages to Cynthia Powell and Yoko Ono, his political activism and his relationships with others on the way such as Paul McCartney, Stuart Sutcliffe and Brian Epstein. Coloured by his constant struggles with his demons, his depression and his anger, this very credible retelling of Lennon’s life through his last moments is astonishingly well-scripted and funny, and at times quite moving.

Valentine Pelka, as well as having an uncanny likeness to Lennon, depicts beautifully the numerous aspects of his personality, capturing very well his insecurity and vulnerability at the same time as his unfaltering wit and crude humour. At the same time his sensitive portrayal of Lennon’s depression and rage is entrancing.

There are also commendable performances from Martin Bendel, Helen Phillips and Spencer Cowan, as the gatekeepers, moving flawlessly from the portrayal of one character to another, playing out the events of Lennon’s life.

The most striking aspect of the piece is the astounding attention to detail, with years of research having gone into this labour of love. Alexander Marshall warns us, however, that it is “not always a gentle show.” It endeavours to tell the full story of Lennon’s life through his death, with as much detail as possible and without simply focussing on his fame and glory, or dancing around his personal issues and chauvinistic tendencies.

The author also makes several clear points about violence and in particular, American gun violence through the show. As well as illustrating Lennon’s position on peace and violence, the show makes an important point about the futility of violence and the uselessness of ‘fighting for peace’.

The only potential flaw is the vehicle used to play out the events. Though interesting, the five stages of death rarely match up to sections of Lennon’s life, and instead of aiding the flow of the story they rather break it up.

Reviewer: Emily Gardiner