BOB Marley was a revolutionary – both musically and politically and this new musical based on his life is revolutionary too.
First off, refreshingly it is not another jukebox musical like most biography-based musicals these days, where a paper-thin storyline is there just to link the hits.
Written and directed by Kwame Kwei Armah this show literally tugs at the emotions as the heart pounds to the near constant reggae beat backdrop to a passionate and powerful tale.
Every word spoken and sung is beautifully constructed, entwined and delivered to take us on a voyage of historical discovery of Bob Marley’s own life story alongside Jamaican history following gaining its independence in 1962.
From the humble ‘Wailers’ street music beginnings to international stardom via his partnership with Chris Blackwell and island records; nothing is sanitised in the story telling of gang and political wars in Jamaica and Marley’s love of women.
It’s a work of art on many levels – sensitively directed and staged via a brilliant combination of projection and set pieces.
The band, under the musical direction Sean Green, is as integral to the show as are the talented acting ensemble.
Special mentions to Tony Welsh as Ricardo Coke-Thomas, Delroy Brown as Don Taylor, Shyko Amos as Marcia Griffiths and Alex Robertson as Chris Blackwell.
Quite simply, Mitchell Brunings as Bob Marley is Bob Marley reborn such is the power of his performance.
At the end of show where the 1978 ‘One Love ‘ Peace concert at the National Stadium in Kingston is recreated and gangland leaders, Prime Minister Manley and Opposition Leader Edward Seaga all join hands with Marley on stage you’d think this was happening in real time.
As the audience rises to its feet in acknowledgement of a triumph, Bob leaps into the audience and conducts them in a joyous communal vocal finale.
We should be proud ‘One Love’ has started life in Birmingham and I predict it will run and run when it moves to the West End – catch it at the Rep until April 15.
Visit https://www.birmingham-rep.co.uk for times, ticket prices and more information.
Review by Euan Rose