Bed Peace: The Battle of Yohn and Joko at the Cockpit Theatre
50 years after John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s famous Bed-Ins for Peace protest, writer and director Rocky Rodriguez Jr pays his debut to the couple by portraying a fictionalised account of the events, mixing genuine recordings and dialogue with contemporary issues and fantasy. With such an interesting concept, it’s a pity this is little more than a drawn-out political tantrum, which not only mimics, but actually takes word for word many things today’s activists would say. The issues such movements tackle deserve better than to be force-fed into a play that as a result becomes largely tedious to watch.
The little plot that there is follows Lennon (Craig Edgley) and Ono (Jung Sun Den Hollander) as they encounter the press and various activists throughout their protest. As the piece unfolds, Lennon develops a better understanding for the struggles of the marginalised people he’s trying to help – so, in a sense, it’s a story of personal growth. Indeed, Lennon is the only three-dimensional character in Bed Peace – the protesters only serve to make him aware of his errors, and Ono feels more like a supporting side-character.
But it’s the one-sidedness of the political message that ruins the piece completely. The few moments that concentrate on the couple’s struggles are good, but few and far between; instead, the audience is confronted with various scenes of propaganda. In one scene, for instance, two black activists (Amelia Parillon and Thomas Ababio) discuss the oppression of their community with a white male (Joshua McGregor). What could be an interesting encounter offering important insights is trivialised through the strawman-portrayal of Josh’s position and the preachy nature of the moment.
An imaginative production with posters that recall the 60s and a good lighting design by Amy Daniels make Bed Peace enjoyable in some instances, as do the musical numbers, all taken from the repertoire of the original John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney. Especially Edgley here demonstrates impressive skill on the guitar, even if his singing isn’t always pitch-perfect.
Sadly, these silver linings do little to save Bed Peace. Marginalised communities need a voice; mixing stereotypical political speeches together like this and calling it “theatre” will do little good in furthering important causes, since it trivialises the issues and will do little else other than please those who wish to hear what they already believe uttered on stage, making this an unnecessary addition to London’s fringe theatre scene.
Bed Peace: The Battle of Yohn and Joko is at the Cockpit Theatre from 29th March until 28th April 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.