Lennon Through a Glass Onion

John Waters
Charter Theatre, Preston

Daniel Taylor as John in Lennon Through a Glass Onion Credit: David Munn

Imagine. John Lennon live and unplugged for a one-night session, playing his music and talking about his life.

That’s the basic premise of this stage production, which becomes much more than a tribute act to the late Beatles rhythm guitarist, thanks to intricate writing by John Waters, a sustained and convincing performance by Liverpool actor Daniel Taylor and a remarkably full-sounding musical accompaniment from pianist Stewart D’Arrietta. The latter even fills in bass drum on his left foot and plucks sitar sounds from nowhere, to help serve up more than 30 songs.

The show’s title stems from a 1968 White Album track designed to further perplex all those who sought deeper meanings amongst the Beatles' ballads. A glass onion may, or may not, be an open-topped coffin! John Waters, for his part, uses the music performed here to exhume a Lennon biography from the songs. He wasn’t the first songwriter to wear his heart on his record sleeve.

It all becomes an engrossing and entertaining two hours in the apparent ‘company’ of one of modern pop music’s most perplexing characters. Taylor adopts Lennon’s square-shouldered performance stance, even his later anarchic stage tic of chewing throughout his singing.

Between the music, he recounts episodes from a well-documented life, but they are invested with all the ironic humour, strut and swagger you would expect from the self-styled Working Class Hero himself.

It is a thoroughly immersive performance, and from an actor most recently seen hereabouts playing Tommy Cooper in a similar tribute guise. Nothing if not versatile?

A simple but efficient lighting design neatly emphasises the dramatic and musical structure of the production.

Lennon: Through A Glass Onion is currently on a 36-date tour of the UK, after success in Australia, Japan and America. The ultimately enthusiastic response from the audience here (who at first seemed a little hesitant in embracing the show’s mixed format) suggests it would be welcome back anytime soon.

Reviewer: David Upton