Bed Peace, The Ballad of John and Yoko at The Cockpit Theatre, Marylebone
PUBLISHED: 16:48 07 March 2019
It was fifty years ago today that John Lennon and Yoko One spent their honeymoon in the presidential suite of the Amsterdam Hilton. Director Rocky Rodriquez Jr is recreating their Bed In for peace half a century on
It was fifty years ago today that John Lennon and Yoko One spent their honeymoon in the presidential suite of the Amsterdam Hilton.
Their Bed-In protest in March 1969 against the Vietnam war was a call for peace around the world.
But although they invited the world’s press in each day, the coverage was generally mocking and skeptical. Two months later they staged another in Montreal’s Fairmont hotel during which they recorded Give Peace a Chance.
Craft theatre company is restaging these events in Bed Peace, The Battle of John and Yoko at the Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone to coincide with the anniversary. The script is a mixture of verbatim - culled from film and interviews during the protest - and imagined dialogue, alongside several Lennon and McCartney songs, which director and writer Rocky Rodriquez Jr has permission to perform. (Across the Universe, In My Life Give Peace a Chance.)
As a lifelong admirer of Lennon Rodriguez says he’s not trying “to throw John and Yoko under the bus”.
“John Lennon has always been an important influence for me it’s his authenticity that the world is screaming for right now.”
“Someone said recently that he was the first Millennial and there’s a moment where he’s talking about how it’s better to be active. That made me realise no one had taken a serious look at the Bed-In, yet you can see its debates being replicated right now. There are moments when you forget it’s set in 1969.”
The play was Rodriguez’ chance to connect with his idol and “articulate his learning curve towards humanitarian work,”
Footage shows a three ring circus of Ono and Lennon pursued by the press pack and being hostilely interviewed in bed with Ono’s five year old daughter Kyoko showering them in flowers. As Lennon drily comments: “we are the famous freaks.”
“They invited the press and publicists along, the whole nine yards” says Rodriquez who attended the Liverpool School of Performing Arts and has met Paul McCartney.
“If you just read the press it would look like a debacle and a farce. John and Yoko got depressed to see them mocking them and saying horrible things. They thought maybe they had been naive about wanting to change the world through this type of action, but the longevity of Give Peace a Chance has endured more than they could have imagined.”
Rodriquez hopes to evoke the febrile atmosphere of America at the tail end of the 60s. The Lennons were joined by Hare Krishnas, cartoonist Al Capp, beat poet Allen Ginsberg, psychologist Timothy Leary and comedian and Civil Rights activist Dick Gregory.
Ono herself was a performance artist whome Rodriquez credits with the idea of the Bed In.
“You have these two artists coming together creating a global phenomenon. They needed each other to pull it off.”
But she was also recovering from a miscarriage four months earlier, and Lennon was soon to tell The Beatles that he was leaving the group, which would spark an outpouring of vitriol against Ono as the cause of the split. The imagined part of the script is between the pair when the cameras go home at night.
“Everybody knows about the Bed In. They don’t know what happened between them during their pillow talk, what inspired them to go down this path.
“I wanted to pull together where John is in his mind. He is leaving the Beatles and going through changes, it’s connected to the plight of the oppressed which leads him to write a song like Imagine. I focused on some authentic moments between John and Yoko, who was a woman brought up in a male dominated society who experienced a lot of opression because of her race. She had a couple of miscarriages before she and Lennon had a child and that would have affected them both deeply.”
Although there are some aspects of the pair’s acitvities he disagrees with, Rodriquez play is “morally positive”
“I wanted to go through the journey. What happened in the 60s in America was a revolution.
“The most important thing we should take from the Bed In was a person willing at the height of their fame to open themselves up to attacks from the left and right to say ‘we need to put our foot down about war’.
“I don’t know anyone today who is really doing that. The example that John Lennon left to us was to bring people together.
“I want the audience to feel what it’s like to be around John Lennon, to give them time to feel his energy and spend time with someone so authentic and truthful.”
Bed Peace runs at Cockpit Theatre in Gateforth Street from March 29-April 28. thecockpit.org.uk