Get Up, Stand Up! review: Arinzé Kene gives a socking performance

Arinzé Kene gives a socking performance in Get Up, Stand Up!: Bob Marley’s soulful, glorious, pulsating reggae is here in abundance

Get Up, Stand Up! 

Lyric Theatre, London                                                 Until April 3, 2hrs 30mins

Rating:

Don’t worry, as Bob Marley would say, you’ll feel a whole lot better coming out of this show than you did going in. It’s a wholly convincing resurrection of the reggae superstar, who died from cancer in 1981 aged just 36.

Arinzé Kene gives a socking performance, delivered against a backdrop of poverty, gun violence and a great wall of loudspeakers. It feels edgy and sounds fabulous, even if the story is overloaded and sketchy.

You naturally get all the juke-box standards including Could You Be Loved, Stir It Up, I Shot The Sheriff, Redemption Song, Jamming and, finally, Get Up, Stand Up (which the audience did more than happily).

Arinzé Kene (above) gives a socking performance, delivered against a backdrop of poverty, gun violence and a great wall of loudspeakers

Arinzé Kene (above) gives a socking performance, delivered against a backdrop of poverty, gun violence and a great wall of loudspeakers

Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall touches, fascinatingly, on Bob’s abandonment by his parents (Nate Simpson plays Bob as a young boy), his stardom, his ambivalent flirtation with Jamaican politics, his attempted assassination and the CIA’s idiotic fear of him as a potent black messiah.

Chris Blackwell (Henry Faber), who founded Island Records, is a pivotal part of the Bob Marley legend, along with Peter Tosh (Natey Jones) and Bunny Wailer (Jacade Simpson), Bob’s soul mates in the band. 

There’s a lovely vignette of the lads touring the UK in 1974, miserably failing to hitch a ride in a Leicestershire snowstorm.

If Kene’s plaintive voice holds the show together, Shelley Maxwell’s choreography provides a cool, sinuous groove for the dance ensemble. But the evening would be diminished without Gabrielle Brooks as Bob’s long-suffering wife Rita, whose rendition of No Woman, No Cry brims with anger at his serial adultery. 

Likewise, Shanay Holmes as Bob’s beauty queen lover makes Waiting In Vain a piercing ballad of hurt.

Director Clint Dyer gets the event to feel like a live gig, with a ganja-like scent wafting into the stalls. Bob’s soulful, glorious, pulsating reggae is here in abundance and it’s a joy to be wrapped in it. 

Comments are closed.