John Lennon’s first book of whimsy, In His Own Write, was published at the height of Beatlemania in the 60s and then adapted for the stage a few years later by his mate Victor Spinetti for the National Theatre. Surprisingly, Baldynoggin’s production is the first time that the work has been performed onstage in its original form and entirety. And what a brilliant idea.
Sharing out roles and accents gleefully between them, Jonathan Glew, Cassie Vallance and Peter Caulfield roll out the 30-odd vignettes that make up the collection with infectious humour and unexpected drama. Against a projected backdrop of Lennon’s own illustrations from the book that creates an added layer for his imagination, the sparkly trio make it very clear that his very English whimsy is not just for the completists.
Lennon’s free-form language – essentially improv in print – sees the Goons driving the humour and the likes of Stanley Unwin and Edward Lear driving the words in pieces that bear titles such as No Flies on Frank, The Famous Five Through Woenow Abbey, Nicely Nicely Clive, Liddypool and the seriously bizarre The Fat Growth on Eric Hearble.
This might not be everyone’s cup of tea – the constant stream of wordplay may be hard to keep up with, while the content occasionally reflects the attitudes of the period and may raise the odd eyebrow or two. But none of that stops this from being a must-see hour of sheer quality from the free fringe that would grace the Royal Festival Hall.