Through a Glass Onion - peeling back the layers of the John Lennon story

John Lennon.

John Lennon.

LENNON: THROUGH A Glass Onion, the show examining and celebrating the life and music of John Lennon, which has enjoyed worldwide success, comes to Galway’s Black Box Theatre on Wednesday, September 14 at 8pm.

Taking its title from the Lennon White Album song ‘Glass Onion’, the show peels away the layers of time and myth to offer clear insight into one of the world’s greatest musical icons.

Part-concert and part-biography, it features West End star Daniel Taylor as Lennon, accompanied by pianist Stewart D’Arrietta, and showcases 31 solo Lennon and Beatles songs, including ‘Imagine’, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, ‘Revolution’, ‘Woman’, ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, ‘Working Class Hero’, and ‘Jealous Guy’ in a kaleidoscopic collage of song, word, and emotion.

The show was written by John Waters, one of Australia’s best known actors and singers. It opened in Australia in 1992 and has gone on to play off Broadway in New York, around the USA, and Japan. It wowed audience at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, before thrilling audiences in Lennon’s birthplace of Liverpool in April. Personally endorsed by Yoko Ono, the show has also found favour with the critics, being hailed as "triumphant" by British Theatre Guide, "compelling" by Rolling Stone, and "deeply felt" by The New York Times.

Daniel Taylor, who has co-starred with Rebecca Storm in Blood Brothers, is a perfect fit for Lennon, not least because he’s also from Liverpool. This is his second time portraying the singer, having previously played him in Ian Carroll’s play, One Bad Thing. “That play was more about Mark Chapman and whether he was brainwashed by the CIA to murder John Lennon,” Taylor tells me over an amiable morning chat. “It was also very much a play, there was only one song in it. Glass Onion has over 30 songs with lots of dialogue in between, so it’s very different.”

Taylor describes Through A Glass Onion; “It’s John Lennon’s life flashing before him as the bullets leave Mark Chapman’s gun, it’s as simple as that really. It has everything that was important in John’s life; growing up in Liverpool, meeting Paul McCartney, the beginning of The Beatles, his relationship with Brian Epstein, Beatlemania.

"We focus on John himself and what a lot of tragedy he endured at a young age. He lost his mother when he was 17; she was run over and killed by a drunken off-duty policeman. She had been in and out of his life, but had come back into it, and he got on very well with her. Even though he’d been brought up by his aunt Mimi, who he adored, his mother was still a great influence. Coincidentally Paul also lost his mother when he was a teenager, to breast cancer.

“We also talk about John’s time in New York. He identified with the city, I think it was the nearest thing he found to being back in Liverpool. People left him alone and he could get on with his stuff and he felt comfortable. We talk about him getting his green card in America, his political activities, and maybe a few naïve decisions he made along the way. We mention his famous ‘lost weekend’ where he went off to Los Angeles to take a break from Yoko.”

The show does not shy away from Lennon’s flaws. “We do show his faults, it’s a very honest show,” Taylor states. “The way I approach it, I want people to feel that they are in John’s living room and he is just chatting with them over a cup of tea saying ‘this is what happened, this is how I felt, this is why I did that, this wasn’t my finest moment when I was doing that’. He was a very honest man, John.”

Taylor gives a sense of the show’s sound and look; “It’s a two hander, me playing John obviously and my ‘partner in crime’ Stewart playing piano. He’s regarded as the finest rock’n’roll pianist to come from Australia, he’s a force of nature. Musically everything is stripped down to just the piano and guitar. The lighting of the show is amazing – I produce shows myself and it astounded me, its simplicity yet what they achieved with it. As a spectacle it looks amazing.”

Tickets are €25 and available from the Town Hall at 091-569777 and www.tht.ie

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