Living the Dream – A Play with Music

Monday 5 August
Strand Arts Centre

6.30pm 
£15 / £12 (concession)

 

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A sneak preview of this brand-new play, brimming with stars, ahead of its opening at Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s, Other Palace Theatre in London in 2020. 

Based on a true story, Ana Costea is a former political prisoner in Romania, who upon the overthrow of Ceausescu wrote to George Best explaining that he and John Lennon had given so many prisoners hope, because they were the essence of the word freedom.  She also wrote that her dream would be to one day have the opportunity to meet George.  Now, on her death bed, issues from Ana’s past are preventing her from passing peacefully. The spirits of George and John come to help her understand unsolved mysteries of her life and Ana gets to live her dream.  

This abridged staged reading features John Altman, best known for playing EastEnders bad boy Nick Cotton, reading the part of John Lennon.  This will be the second time he has played a Beatle having portrayed George Harrison in the 1979 film, Birth of the Beatles.  John will be appearing alongside another former EastEnder, Debbie Arnold, who played April Branning in the soap. George Best will be played by local actor, Daniel Leith.   

Opening in London in January 2020, before a planned return to Belfast in April next year, the reading at this years’ festival will be followed by an audience Q&A with the stars and writer, John Warrington, to be hosted by George’s former wife, Alex Best and Belfast’s 89FM breakfast host, Robin Elliott.

 

Synopsis

The expansion of communism after WW2 saw the creation of several Soviet puppet states.  One of the most ruthless was Romania. Under its ruler, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, the ‘re-education programme was created, its aim - the destruction of the elite.  Upon his death, Dej was replaced by Nicolae Ceausescu and a second reign of terror began, this time targeting anyone who dissented against the state, including writers, journalists and students. 

In 1994, George Best received a letter from a former Romanian political prisoner.  The letter stated that he and John Lennon had given hope to many prisoners because they were the essence of the word, “freedom”. 

Moving to the present day, Ana is on her death bed.  Struggling to pass peacefully, the mystery surrounding the murder of her parents remains unanswered.  In a morphine induced coma, the spirits of George Best and John Lennon arrive to help her discover the truth.

Background

George Best showed TV presenter and producer, John Warrington a letter he received from Romania some 25 years ago. This was the beginning of an Odyssey for John who also remembers George regularly saying to him that he wanted his life story told in “a different way”. Fast-forward to 2005 and the aftermath of George’s passing.  Giving tribute to his friend on Talk Sport, John was asked what defined George as a person and the mark he’d left on the world.  It was at this point that John remembered the letter and recounted what was written in it.

As a TV producer, John originally planned a documentary and he spent three years trying to track down the writer and also the letter – sadly to no avail.  Then in 2011, a producer friend of John suggested writing the story as a musical, a form of writing John had never attempted before.  After several rewrites, the script is ready, casting nearly done and the production will open at the studio stage of the Other Palace Theatre in January 2020, which is owned by Andrew Lloyd-Webber. Asked why he has chosen to debut the play, even in abridged form at the EastSide Arts Festival, John said “George was very proud of his east Belfast roots.  He often talked about his childhood and I think he would be absolutely delighted that those from his hometown get the opportunity to see this before anybody else. The letter he received from Romania greatly touched George.  The fact that he was seen as a hero to somebody living in such dreadful conditions in a communist state really moved him.”

Cast

John Lennon - John Atman
George Best - Daniel Leith
Ana - Debbie Arnold
Young Ana - Talia Janson
Popsecu- Stephen Beggs
Kristiana- Katherine Mount