Looking through a glass onion

Lynne Lancaster

SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE: Much more than a tribute show, John Waters’ spookily 'channels' the spirit of John Lennon to bring to life this look at Lennon's life and music.
Looking through a glass onion
Much more than a tribute show, John Waters’ spookily 'channels' the spirit of John Lennon to bring to life this look at Lennon's life and music. Lennon would have turned 70 this year on October 9, and it is also 30 years since he was assassinated by Mark Chapman in New York on December 8, 1980. That shot reverberated around the world. In October this year fans celebrated the former Beatles' would-have- been birthday with music, songs and film screenings, particularly in the US and UK. Originally produced in 1992, this version of the show at the Opera House has a fabulous band of four - brilliant musical director Stewart D'Arrietta (who also plays assorted characters such as American critics, a Chinese acupuncturist etc.), co-musical director on guitar Paul Berton, growling wild man on the drums Greg Henson and Tony Mitchell on bass guitar all of whom provide excellent support for the brilliant Waters. In a purple suit and a black top, with no additional costumes or props, Waters bring us a frank, witty, forthright, introspective show as an older Lennon looking back and reflecting on his life. He has a marvellous craggy face, a superb voice and is dramatically, vividly lit by Peter Neufeld. Waters gives a bravura performance that gives one shivers and goose bumps. At times shattering this show can move you to laughter and at other times tears. Waters is currently appearing on TV in Offspring, and this production of Glass Onion is touring nationally after this Opera House season. At times rude, with schoolboy humour, it is a fascinating monologue interspersed with treasured songs, taking us from Liverpool to the height of fame as a Beatle (how much more of a celebrity can you get ?), thoughts about Paul and the partnership, thoughts about Yoko (Woman), his tender love for his son Julian (Beautiful Boy), a questioning of his relationship with his mother (Julia) and the whole sex, drugs, rock-and-roll rock star life. How does one cope? He explains the infamous comment about the Beatles “being bigger than Jesus” and reveals the hurt at the racism directed at him and Yoko. There is also a segment on the Beatles' Indian phase. He insists he is just trying to lead an 'ordinary' life, expressing his creativity through the music. One of the themes of the show was his magic with words and how he regarded the music as the most important thing to leave his fans - the music was what mattered. Toward the end, we see how he thought he was finally adjusting to life after the Beatles and 'getting his act together' again . Throughout all this we are treated to fabulous versions of, for example Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, Strawberry Fields, Revolution, All You Need Is Love, Nowhere Man and lots more, including the title song. It's as if we had a time machine and are at a Lennon concert, just before he was shot. There are chilling references to Chapman stalking him before the tragedy. For Lennon/Beatles fans not to be missed. Looking through a glass onion At the Sydney Opera House until the 12th of December Running time: 2 hours 15 mins (approx) including interval For more dates and information please visit the ArtsHub Events page
What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Lynne Lancaster is a Sydney based arts writer who has previously worked for Ticketek, Tickemaster and the Sydney Theatre Company. She has an MA in Theatre from UNSW, and when living in the UK completed the dance criticism course at Sadlers Wells, linked in with Chichester University.