Billed as “not simply a docu-drama”,
A genuine three-star until it’s tubby, flailing ending.
Rookie Daniel and battle-hardened Howard do the grunt work in investigating John Lennon and his revolutionary comrades. Lennon, seen as spouting Bolshy nonsense—and as an audience member told me pre-show, so far left he should have “moved to Cuba”—is seen as worth tailing, recording, and his group worth infiltrating. But it’s not a reactionary piece, at least in spite of a nostalgia-tripping reactionary audience: Daniel and Howard can’t help being invested in the musician’s life and personality when their own are so dreary and parasitic. Even with the apparently independent FBI, the “Ears” of the show, the burgeoning culture of the mega-celeb cannot be avoided.
Paul Broesmith defies expectations of his gruff Howard by not entirely succumbing to kitsch. His character’s a tropey lump of a mentor, like the “You’re out of line!” police commissioner you see in every cop drama ever. Writer Mark St. Germain tries to humanise the man by giving him family troubles, but this humanisation is its own cliche; it’s only because Broesmith’s so austere that it has a chance of working. Ben Adwick’s neophyte spook is passable, turning from bumbling to upright, but this a tame characterisation and the complexity of his character is, in no small way, weird.
The play’s description asks “Where do you draw the line between coincidence and conspiracy?”. Cool question, but Ears on a Beatle starts to get downright tinfoily towards it’s end. Fledging Daniel begins thinking the assassinations of the Kennedys and MLK are linked and, because this strand doesn’t go anywhere, it’s right disturbing. And not in a dramatic way.
The majority of the play isn’t bad. It’s semi-snappy and the actors make a decent pair of agents, even if they humiliatingly have to reference celebrity names—you know, because of ‘nostalgia’. But Ears on a Beatle was a genuine three-star until it’s tubby, flailing ending. Like so many Fringe shows, it’s got ending sickness, although the play really tries to pack a bunch in its three codas and fails spectacularly. Why Germain felt it right to include Lennon’s death is beyond me. So that’s Ears on a Beatle by Lost Boys UK: a decent production marred by a gristly ending.