Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical review

A group of English literature A-Level students watched ‘Get Up! Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical.’ at the Lyric theatre on 7 December. This play was written by the acclaimed Lee Hall, who also wrote ‘The Pitmen Painters’ which we are studying for coursework, as well as the screenplays for ‘Billy Elliot’ and ‘Rocketman’. Interested to see more of Hall’s work, we were fortunate that his new play about Bob Marley would be opening in London.

Bob Marley was and remains a symbol of peace and unity, which was crucial during political violence in Jamaica. He sang about Black liberation and the Rastafari message with Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and the I-Threes musical group in ‘Bob Marley and The Wailers’.

The musical follows Bob Marley’s career, including his time spent in England and the Smile Jamaica Concert, up to his death in 1981. His most famous songs, such as ‘Jamming’, ‘ Three Little Birds’ and ‘No Woman No Cry’ are performed with compelling energy that immerses the audience and encourages them to ‘Get Up! Stand Up!’ and dance. The direction of Clint Dyer, who describes himself as a ‘Marleyite since I could hear’ transforms a potentially 2D biopic into a moving experience by focusing on Marley’s drive and attitude.  Arinzé Kene, a playwright himself, who plays Bob Marley captures the essence of the singer through his dynamic movements and sincere renditions. For this reason, and the wonderful voices of Gabrielle Brooks and Shanay Holmes, who play Rita Marley and Cindy Breakspeare, the power of the play lies in the artistry of the music.

Having watched this play, the parallels across Hall’s work is evident. Lee Hall admires artistic expression, such as the naïve pitmen’s paintings and Marley’s reggae songs. He also focuses on justice, including opportunities for working-class artists, and freedom from oppression as sung by Bob Marley. ‘Get Up! Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical’ allowed us to see the progression of Hall’s craft through a remarkable display of talent.

Isha E U6N

At the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, sixth formers from Bancroft's alongside Mr Gallagher went to watch the acclaimed Bob Marley Musical. Not expecting much from musicals, which I’m ashamed to say I thought to them to be fluffy, it is safe to say I’m much changed after this experience. It is with pride that I cover this musical as it captures like nothing else the grit, integrity and determination of Jamaica as a country, and it’s national superstar Bob Marley. 

Based on Bob Marley, born Robert Nesta Marley, this musical was about a rise to fame with the Wailers to a later role as a uniter of all nations with a universal message. Spectators got a taste of the impact of this man in this reenactment. Arinzé Kene played this role with an authentic feel in his accent, movements and powerful voice that encapsulates the message Bob brought to the world. 

Director Dominic Cooke also brings to light the intimate side of Bob Marley’s life, strung between two women, Rita Marley his wife who we married in 1966, played by Gabrielle Brookes and Cindy Breakspeare, the ‘other woman’, played by Shanay Holmes. 

Staying true to 70s fashion, it was bell bottoms galore, mixed with the traditional Jamaican dress of a long skirt and headscarf in the colours of the Rasta flag. The smells of Jamaica seemed to seep off the stage, and it honestly felt like I was back in Jamaica, seeing the grit and pride of the people and their humour and zest was captured perfectly. 

Unfortunately, a drunken man interrupted the musical, attacking and grabbing onto another seated spectator. It is unclear as to why the man did this but he proceeded to yell and the show had to stop. After booing the man who had to be dragged away by multiple security guards, the audience sang ‘Don’t worry about a thing’ in real Bob Marley spirit. This wasn’t a problem for the actors who reimmersed us in the musical. 

Having Rastafarian grandparents, it was touching to see the very accurate representation of Haile Selassie, believed to be the messiah of the African race, and Bob Marley battling to stay true to his faith. Bob Marley refusing a biopsy for a cancer in his toe that eventually killed him, refusing to leave England and instead persevere with his mission, refusing to settle down may seem like stubbornness and foolish yet to me, it is that relentlessness and complete faith in Jah which characterises Bob Marley as the man he is. Some people are gifted and some people are a gift, Bob Marley is a gift. 

I have already booked another ticket for January so I strongly urge you to look into this amazing opportunity, especially if you have Jamaican heritage. 

Faith C, L6N





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