This play tells the story of the greatest secular protest song of the 20th Century: Give Peace A Chance. The clever pun in the title Bed Peace (it’s for peace and it was written in bed) refers to the extraordinary context of the songs genesis. Its 1969 and John Lennon and Yoko Ono have taken to their bed in protest against the Vietnam War. With their mantra of Make Love Not War, they begin the world’s first ever love in for peace. Rather than taking to the streets they take to their bed. It’s a brilliantly original initiative. As a way of combining pacifism and free love staging a protest naked in bed is a masterstroke. From here John and Yoko hold press conferences in which they urge people to “Grow Your Hair” and “Give Peace a Chance”. The image of John and Yoko in bed, John with his long hair, beard and round spectacles and Yoko with her bushy eyebrows and long black hair is an icon of the 60s counter culture. But what was really going on in that bedroom in a Montreal hotel in 1969? Bed Peace lifts the lid on the behind-the-scenes psychodramas that formed the cauldron from which Give Peace a Chance emerged.
Bed Peace quite rightly foregrounds the contribution of Yoko Ono to the making of the song. We see how her artistic insights shaped John’s imagination. Drawing on the ideas of the situationists who advocated “Happenings” (like throwing dollar bills onto the floor of the New York stock exchange and watching the traders squabble over them) she came up with the bed protest idea. She may have got the idea from Henri Matisse who made his cut-outs in bed whilst ill. In the first scene, she holds a press conference inside a bag (a giant sheet) what she calls “Bagism” so that the press listen to her ideas and not judge her by her looks. So that’s one aspect of her importance. But more than that she forces John to confront his demons and begin the process of becoming a better man. John had been violent and misogynist in his life like most men of his generation and background. But if he was to become the global icon for the counter culture and the peace movement then he had to change. In one of the plays most powerful scenes, Yoko (Jung Sun Den Hollander) tells John some sobering truths about his behaviour towards her. Previously we had seen John showing off for the photographers by cupping Yoko’s right breast in his hand. She tells him that this degrades her and she doesn’t like it. John (Craig Edgley) clearly taken aback promises to be a better man. But Yoko’s influence goes deeper. John was a very angry man. Yoko encourages John to stop, reflect and understand where his anger is coming from, “Go deeper John” as she says to him. This was the journey that led John to primal scream therapy, meditation and yoga.
If Yoko deconstructs John’s violence and sexism then the two members of the Black Panther Party, Amelia (Amelia Parillon) and Thomas (Thomas Ababio) do the same for his sense of white privilege, a white saviour complex and racial prejudices. Amelia in her Angela Carteresque afro and black beret points out John’s hypocrisy as he protests from the suite of the most expensive hotel in Montreal. She tells him that he cannot speak for black people. This is the most uncomfortable scene in the play. Amelia delivers her tirade with such visceral power that it sent shivers down my spine. From this Gestalt encounter, it seems as if the different constituencies of the peace movement have no basis for common ground.
After these painful encounters, John and Yoko take stock and say ok let’s do something positive. Let’s write a song. Let’s write a song that will supersede “We Shall Overcome” in that it will be a secular song for all people everywhere. Recording equipment is set up, Amelia and Thomas from the Panthers are invited back, and Starlight (Lyna Dubarry) from the Hare Krishna joins in too. In a wonderful moment of group work everyone chips in as words and ideas are thrown into the mix. Eventually the lines “All We are Saying” and “Give Peace A Chance” emerge as the most promising. Acoustic guitar in hand John comes up with chords to go with the words. The evening ends with the cast and audience united in a euphoric foot stamp, clap and sing along. As “All we are Saying is Give Peace a Chance” bounces off the walls of the Cockpit Theatre, its surfaces covered in slogans, one feels as if 1969 lives again. Bed Peace recreates those heady days and offers a unique insight into a fascinating moment of political, social and cultural upheaval.
Review by John O’Brien
Craft Theatre are delighted to present the premiere of their new work “Bed Peace: The Battle of Yohn and Joko”, a show which in 2019 marks the 50 year anniversary of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s famous bed-in for peace; when the Lennons took over a hotel room, campaigned for peace and sparked a movement.
The 60s are often remembered as a time of peace but the conflict experienced in that decade was immense. It was a time of loss of peaceful heroes, with icons such as Martin Luther King killed the previous year. As the Vietnam War raged in 1969, John and Yoko held their two, week-long bed-ins intended as a non-violent protest against war and violence, and as experimental tests of new ways to promote peace.
Craig Edgley – John Lennon
Jung Sun Hollander – Yoko Ono
Lyna Dubarry – ensemble
Helen Foster – ensemble (Also Producer)
Thomas Ababio – ensemble
Amelia Parillon – ensemble
Joshua Macgregor – ensemble
DIRECTOR: Rocky Rodriguez Jr.
PRODUCER: Helen Foster
BED PEACE: The Battle of Yohn and Joko
Dates: Friday 29th March to Sunday 28th April 2019