By Crystal Wood
This past Saturday, I got into bed with a bunch of strangers.
No, it’s not what you’re thinking. I just happened to be in the audience of draft89 theatre collective’s new work, John/Yoko Bed Piece. The play recreates the 1969 bed-in for peace staged by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and with the intimate setting and throw pillow seats, the audience really was in on the experience.
The play is written and directed by Risha Yorke, and features a fairly large cast recreating the hippies, journalists and public figures that participated in the event at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth hotel. (And the Canadian connection doesn’t end there; the CBC practically becomes a character of its own during the show.)
I went in with little knowledge of draft89’s work, and was pretty pleased with what I saw. I think that the play succeeds in two ways: first, as a multidisciplinary piece; second, as an information tool. The play mixes traditional theatre with audio-visual effects, live music and dance both to provide transitions and to create mood. It works well, making for a varied but enjoyable experience. As an informational tool, I – as well as most of the cast – missed the hippie ‘60’s by at least a decade, and I definitely learned a bit about some key figures in the peace movement. But more than just a history lesson, Yorke conveys a clear passion for the ideals of Ono and Lennon, and the play comes across not as a lesson from the past, but a message for the future.
There were definitely a few stand-outs among the large cast. Tom Smart does a fine job with the John Lennon character, and other impressive performances come from Devin Upham as the “dreadful Neanderthal fascist” cartoonist Al Capp (his words), and Ted Neal as Tommy Smothers (of the Smothers Brothers television show). There were a few moments where the pacing felt a little off (like when the hippie contingent echo similar statements chorus-style), but overall the show moved along at a nice clip.
Unfortunately for myself and for this site, I had to fly solo for this one, as my show partner got sick at the last minute. Beth, if you’re reading this, there’s still 2 weeks to check out the show! John/Yoko Bed Piece runs until June 7.
– The Theatre Centre, 101-1087 Queen Street West
– May 20-June 7, Tuesday-Sunday 8pm, Saturday and Sunday 2:30pm
– Tickets: $28 Adult/ $25 Student/Senior/Artists
Photo by Risha Yorke