The Cynthia Lennon Story
Hope Street Theatre
A version of this review appears on Writebase: https://writebase.co.uk/
This girl was a fascinating, intelligent, beautiful woman, a talented artist who happened to be married to John Lennon – if ever a person could be said to ‘live in interesting times’ as the alleged Chinese curse has it, it was Cynthia Lennon.
This play, unfortunately, does not do her justice. Basically, a well-meaning shambles structure, acting and staging. For example, such a good idea to have some of it shown in grainy, shaky video to come across as footage but the lip syncing is as distracting as anything non-existent can possibly be. And coins must have been tossed for various key scenes: where’s the greatest dramatic value? Telling Brian Epstein or Aunt Mimi that the young couple have to get married? John’s assassination, or wife and son discussing his death years later? Worse still, this is followed, almost unbelievably, by a scene set nearly 20 years afterwards, about her plans for an art exhibition. However, the first half does come to a memorable ending, introducing the future Cynthia and Lennon.
I dare say you could stick bushy beard, unkempt hair, hat and round glasses on many an actor to reveal a lookalike John, and the only thing required of Peter Durr, for the most part, is just to stand there. Doh. Sadly, he cannot act to, well, save his life… Nor can Maggie Green, Cynthia’s concerned mother, and as for Karen Sharples, playing Aunt Mimi, she is painted black (sorry, wrong band), unremittingly awful, though perhaps to account for Lennon’s atrocious behaviour. She actually describes poor Cynthia as ‘common’, which she cannot possibly be of course because she comes from the Wirral. Mimi then appears to change career, and is exactly the same as a doctor, so it’s a surprise later to see her as a tripped out hippy in a psychedelic scene where Lennon tries to introduce his wife to drugs.
The second half focused more on Cynthia, and the novelty was quite interesting, what with four husbands, plus the opportunity to be herself and let her talents flourish, and making the most of the relationship with her beloved son, Julian, a gallant effort from Lee Clotworthy. Young and older, both Christina Rose and Mikyla Jane Durkan, despite unrealistic wigs, were most endearing and their performances made it clear why Cynthia was so popular. The lively ensemble scenes with her and her friends meeting up with John, Paul (no George and Ringo) and Stuart were some of the best, especially with the costumes and music. By contrast, John’s seedy father, Freddie, puts in a fleeting appearance for no apparent reason; too unpolished to be described as a cameo. He is later mentioned a strange conversation between Cynthia and Julian, which implies that he rescued the boy in a car crash – as a ghost.
No space or time to include all the dramas, obviously, or the people involved such as Pete Best, never mind Yoko Ono (and I shan’t elaborate on that). Or here, to mention all the cast. But room for Adam Byrne, who made a convincing Lennon; a charismatic bully, clever and cruel, Louis Holmes was indeed the cherubic faced Paul, while Lew Freeburn smouldered as tragic Stuart Sutcliffe, with Rachel McGrath was lively and protective as Cynthia’s best friend and fellow artist. Best of the lot was Mike Sanders as the permanently exasperated Brian Epstein.
Incidentally, the programme is so well produced, it makes a nice souvenir, and I imagine this show will appeal mainly to lovers of nostalgia and aficionados; the audience was of a certain age. Still, they seemed quite happy with it all, even impressed, and apparently, it’s a sell-out, so fair play…