John Lennon's last day

Writer of John Lennon's Last Day, Stephen Kennedy, next to the John Lennon statue outside the Cavern in Liverpool Writer of John Lennon's Last Day, Stephen Kennedy, next to the John Lennon statue outside the Cavern in Liverpool

On Monday 8 December 1980, John Lennon was shot dead in New York City. His death reverberated around the world.

On the day he would have turned 75, BBC Radio 2's docu-drama John Lennon's Last Day tells the story of the immediate events leading up to the tragedy.

The story is told in monologue form by Liverpool actor Ian Hart, a detached yet far from dispassionate narrator, who guides us through Lennon's last hours in forensic detail.

His highly evocative narration is woven together by the voice of Lennon himself, through archive recordings and his music.

Compelling

Producer of the programme, James Robinson, said: "It's a very rare thing for an unsolicited script to end up being made but I am a huge Beatles fan and thought it sounded like an interesting idea. I started reading Stephen Kennedy's script and couldn't stop. It was compelling.

"I thought I knew a lot about The Beatles but there was a lot in the script I found I didn't know.

"I particularly realised I didn't know much about the circumstances of the shooting and the other events that happened that day which cast a light on John Lennon himself - who he was and what he meant as an artist.

"While it sits between drama and documentary, it is clearly not a classic documentary because the narrator has an attitude to the events that occur.

"This means that when the story takes its inevitable dramatic turn you are gripped in a way that doesn't happen with documentary. You are very much there in the story.

"What also attracted me is that the narrator is the ghost in the room. It's very difficult to represent the murder of a famous person in a way that doesn't seem either trite or sensational.

A very human story

"While this is a drama, at no point is Lennon actually represented. There is no artifice. In fact when we do hear from Lennon, we hear the real Lennon with clips of him talking.

"The play lasts for an hour but the actual monologue is around 30 minutes. Radio 2 very rarely does drama so the station wanted a lot of music in the play. These include Beatles numbers like Come Together and Tomorrow Never Knows and from Lennon's solo career including songs recorded just before his death like Watching The Wheels and Beautiful Boy.

"The challenge was how to weave the music in, in a way that helped to tell the story. We decided to use music to affect the mood of the story as the day progressed.

"It is a very human story. We always talk about the death of John Lennon but another often overlooked aspect, that we hear about in this programme, is that a five-year-old boy also lost his dad and a family was ripped apart."

The Last Days of John Lennon airs tonight at 22:00 on Radio 2.

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