April 24 – May 5
Writer: Rob Fennah
Director: Mark Heller
Cast Includes: Jake Abraham, Roy Carruthers, Stephanie Dooley, Lynn Francis, Mark Moraghan, Danny O’Brien, Eric Potts, Alan Stocks.
Running Time: 2 hrs 5 minutes
Reviewer: Courtney Haddock
Three old mates and a Texan cowboy. Two groups on the search for John Lennon’s missing banjo. The clock is ticking. Who will find it first?
When Beatles super-fan Barry (Eric Potts) finds a letter from John Lennon in the 1960’s, him and his two friends Steve (Jake Abraham) and Joe (Mark Moraghan) go on the search trying to understand Lennon’s jabberwocky. However, when Texan cowboy Travis (Danny O’Brien) overhears its worth a whopping 5 million pounds, he wants in and goes on his own search with his wife Cheryl (Stephanie Dooley).
Although Dooley and O’Brien charmingly play the roles of Texan natives well and keep up their southern accents throughout, there was something about the mixing of two cultures which does not work. The addition of Texan gangs and Americanisms alienates the performance from a nostalgic scouse homage to the Beatles and creates a dramatic divide between the characters and the comedy.
With not much differentiation between scenes, the static setting causes the actors to ‘tell’ the audience where they are and what they were doing as opposed to showing. Causing many clumpy set changes and overexplained moments.
There are fantastic comedic moments between Steve, Joe and Barry displaying an authentic friendship. Funny, banterful chemistry combined with classic scouse humour. Special mention to Eric Potts who heart-warmingly plays Barry and providing lots of laughs. Also, to his love interest Brenda (Lynn Francis) who plays three different roles flawlessly, making each character stand out.
Many of the actors play multiple characters and impress by quickly changing into different roles adding to the comedy, especially Abraham who amusingly transforms into a Mancunian black-market dealer triggering a lot of laughs from the audience.
A notable scene is a wild country goose chase between the Texan gang and Travis that takes place in the stalls prompting audience participation. This scene breaks out from the storytelling on stage and energises the atmosphere of the audience and the show.
With a few bits of finessing, Lennon’s Banjo has the ingredients to be great. The show provides comedy, terrific actors and a heart-warming story and maybe even the clues to Lennon’s missing banjo.
Lennon’s Banjo is at The Epstein Theatre until May 5th.
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