Thursday 4 April 2019

Bed Peace @ The Cockpit Theatre

Bed Peace @ The Cockpit Theatre

Back in 1969, in response to the Vietnam War, John Lennon and Yoko Ono staged two ‘bed-ins for peace’. The intent was non-violent protest and a new form of promoting peace. Two such bed-ins were staged, the second of which in a hotel in Montreal resulted in the song “Give Peace A Chance”. The song soon rose to number two in the UK charts and became an anthem in opposition to wars, violence and prejudice.

It’s this event that forms the basis of Bed Peace, a new work devised by Rocky Rodriguez Jr. and performed at The Cockpit Theatre. It presents key moments from the bed-in as well as speeches and views from outside parties. Yet it never quite comes together as a cohesive whole.

The need for peace is immediately set up by the ensemble. They play a variety of roles, led by Helen Foster’s enthusiastic Narrator, that establishes the U.S. in the grip of war, violence and riots. In the midst of this are a celebrity couple acting as martyrs, but how much of a difference can they actually make?

Rodriguez Jr.’s depiction of Lennon and Ono is ambiguous. Are they genuinely wanting to make a difference in the world, or are they a privileged white couple out of touch with society? They see themselves as enlightened, modern day revolutionaries, but the press only care about their fame. And what good does sitting in a bed actually achieve?

The characterisation doesn’t help. The play aims to humanise these celebrities, to get under the whiteness of their clothes and skin. Yet the performances fall flat. Jung Sun Den Hollander’s Ono speaks only of peace and philosophy, lost in her own world, while Craig Edgley’s Lennon has two modes: angry and eccentric loony. Together they seem to have more of a troubled patient (Lennon) and therapist (Ono) relationship that’s hard to sympathise with.

Often, though, they’re utterly silenced by the rest of the cast. The play is at its best during fiery monologues that explore racial tensions, privilege and prejudice. There are home truths and fascinating points made, with a particularly impassioned performance from Amelia Parillon who speaks more from the heart than as an actor.

It makes you wish for a different play that focused solely on race. Instead, we have a piece about celebrity with lofty ambitions that fails to make a dramatic point. The final energetic performance of “Give Peace A Chance” - complete with audience participation, dancing Hare Krishna, and a host of guitars that gently weep under the strains of violent strumming - is meant to prove the power of pop music, but instead it seems to enforce Lennon and Ono as a pair of misguided, lunatic hippies. You can’t beat the power of a good speech.


Watch: Bed Peace runs at The Cockpit Theatre until 28th April.

Bed Peace @ The Cockpit Theatre

Bed Peace @ The Cockpit Theatre