Sunday, September 24

This Girl: The Cynthia Lennon Story – Upstairs at the Gatehouse

The Programme description:  The play is also a musical featuring original songs and music arrangements by BBC Radio Merseyside’s Frankie Connor, Billy Kinsley and Alan Crowley and depicts the emotional journey of Cynthia (CIN’s) life before, during and after Beatlemania. THIS GIRL features eight brand new songs making it a must see musical for theatre lovers of original and contemporary theatre.

THIS GIRL tells a story of Cynthia Powell a shy student from Hoylake, who fell in love with a young musician called John when they met at Liverpool Art College in 1957. She became Cynthia Lennon and mother of their son Julian. This play has been created it seems to showcase their love and affection for each other, her struggles and the challenges she faced in her relationship with John Lennon as he shot to fame within the magnitude of Beatlemania in the 1960’s. It is a raw production and needs some work to give it the boost it deserves. The undulating performances between CIN (Emily Guilfoyle) and Lennon (Marky Reader) appears synonymous of what we know to be true. Reader’s characterisation of Lennon was a convincing portrayal of the man himself throughout the whole production; inclusive of his experiences as a child, abandonment by his father, death of his mother and betrayal which played out throughout his relationship with Cynthia. 

The musical is in two parts with an interval and portrays the time of their meeting falling in love, marriage to them splitting up and what appeared to be his relationship with Yoko Ono however this was not clear at all and confusing. Before his death it was suggested that John was unhappy and was returning to Liverpool, his mates and back to Cynthia.

Life after John Lennon was acted out by the older Cynthia (Roxanne Male) who narrates throughout the play and Julian Lennon (Lee Clotworthy) which detailed their relationships with Noel Charles (Addae Gaskin), possibly the unknown part of her later life. At times Male’s dialogue is quiet and misaligned although possibly needed to deliver the facts, it was lost in translation. It would have been a useful addition to know more of Cynthia’s early life as an art student, writer and what her aspirations were before Lennon.

Her relationship with her son Julian, his struggles and the lack of communication, and affection from his father for over 10yrs was a strong message delivered.           

The staging limited the actor’s ability to utilise and create the scenes necessary to give a convincing performance of the time period and it seemed stuck in the 1960’s with costumes and hair styles not really reflecting the Beatles style and Brian Epstein looking quite dishevelled. The dancing scenes were too close to their audience, and there were missed opportunities to have lighting or colourful scene changes when in Barbados and bring CIN’s reality to life which felt as if this part of her life was unimportant and glossed over which was disappointing. Lennon’s character drives the other performances forward and without him the play would have no structure. The musical has original songs and lyrics performed well by the more competent singers however there were out of key numbers and quiet solos, and you could question the relevance. There are references, to ‘Penny Lane’,’ This Girl’, and ‘I say Hello and you say Goodbye’ which led me to believe this is where John Lennon found inspiration for his songs from his relationship with Cynthia or maybe this is just a romantic notion.

‘This Girl’ the musical was entertaining and sweet, and it is always refreshing to see and support local theatrical performances. It lacks dynamism and direction and would benefit from a more in-depth view of Cynthia Lennon’s life and biography.        

Reviewer: Michelle Knight

Review Date 2nd August 2023 

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A Local Theatre Play by Mike Howl part of the Camden Fringe

Written and directed by: Mike Howl

Musical Direction by: Mark (Strider) Reader

Original songs (words and music) by: Frankie Connor, Alan Crowley and Billy Kinsley

Tech/Sound/Lighting by: Ian McMillan