OVER the past two decades, in between stage productions, films and appearing in hit TV shows such as Offspring and All Saints, John Waters has been indulging in his love of John Lennon.
Waters first paired with pianist Stewart D’Arrietta in 1992 to perform Looking Through A Glass Onion — a tribute to the iconic and iconoclastic late Beatle that blends Lennon’s songs with monologues delivered by Waters in a flawless Liverpudlian accent.
Twenty-two years on and the show is still going strong. In fact, after playing a massive 137 shows over the past few years with a full band line-up, it has now come full circle, returning to the duo approach with which it began.
“It’s actually turned out to be the most organic way of doing the show,” Waters explained.
“The main thing (for the audience) is to get the lyrics out of the songs (and that’s easiest) with just piano and guitar.
“It’s the way the songs were written.”
It’s not surprising the show has endured, and not just because Lennon’s popularity with the public has never waned. Looking Through A Glass Onion has become the perfect vehicle for Waters’ acting chops and musical ability, as he effortlessly switches from song to story to tell Lennon’s tale.
Waters said that despite doing the show for so long, he’s never tired of it.
“I don’t have to try to make it fresh — it’s always a challenge to go out and be a goldfish in a bowl,” he said.
“It’s quite confronting for me. There’s no way I’ve ever get complacent about the show.”
With the show working so well for so long, Waters said the 31 songs in it never change.
“In the early days we’d shuffle around a couple of things, the way we’d cut out from a song to a monologue, shorten some songs and lengthen others until you get comfortable with the way the show sits.
“First of all, we wanted to do the songs that are the most autobiographical.
“The lyrics form part of the text of the show ... or that illustrate his revolutionary style of songwriting, like Strawberry Fields Forever (which) goes against the grain and formatting of pop songs — the chords behind the melody, everything about it is quite magic.
“It’s such a great catalogue, but there are songs (in there) that are not for an audience to just sit back and listen to ... the songs are good in their own way, but not right for the show.
“People always say ‘you didn’t do Don’t Let Me Down’ and I’d like to but you can’t get them all in.
“People want Nobody Told Me. There are songs that are people’s favourites, but you’ve got to stop somewhere.”
Waters and D’Arrietta are taking the stripped-down version of Looking Through A Glass Onion to San Francisco in July and New York in October.
He said it was fitting to be heading to New York, which was Lennon’s home for many years prior to his death.
“I say in the show (as Lennon) ‘I graduated from Liverpool to London to New York’,” he said, effortlessly dropping into Lennon’s Liverpudlian drawl.
“New York suited him because New York appreciated individualistic artists.”
Waters and D’Arrietta perform Looking Through A Glass Onion at Warrnambool’s Lighthouse Theatre on Sunday from 7.30pm.