INTERVIEW: MICHAEL DUKE (Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical)

Interview

London-based actor and singer Michael Duke answers our questions about playing Bob Marley in the Olivier Award-winning musical Get Up, Stand Up! at the Lyric Theatre in London’s West End.

– You are playing Bob Marley… how does it feel to be stepping out on stage and playing this role, live on stage, to a London audience?

It feels great. I think that there’s something quite specific about it being a London audience. I mean, in this country, anyway, there’s a massive Caribbean culture, and it feels – I feel a great honour to be able to represent it. A lot of people who come to see the show, as well, yes, they know Bob Marley’s music, but not necessarily the culture and history and everything surrounding it, so again, for me it’s an honour to tell these stories and educate people, as well. It’s great.

– How do audiences for Get Up, Stand Up! compare to other audiences you’ve performed to?

Completely different. In our theatre the sound is incredibly loud, which you’re not going to get in many theatre productions. There’s a lot of bass, and the audience seem to engage with the piece a lot more vocally, which I think can be great, to an extent, because it’s very Caribbean, and I love that.

– Bob Marley died in 1981, over forty years ago now. Why this story, and why now?

I think this story could have been told ten years ago, and it could be told in ten years time, because I don’t think that the story or the culture has been celebrated nearly enough as it should be. For an audience nowadays, what we read in the news and what we see at the moment reflects a lot of the things that happened back then. As long as these themes and these issues still exist, the show will always be relevant.

– Some people seem to have some kind of snobbery about so-called “jukebox” musicals. What’s your take?

When the story is great, I love them. Because I think for a show like ours, you could take away the songs and it would still be a great story. But then you add the songs back in and it becomes even better.

– Has anything surprised you about performing this role? And do audiences come away surprised by anything?

People only really know Bob Marley’s music, and his individuality is possibly overshadowed by the Rastafarian image. But, like everyone else, he was a person, and so in Get Up, Stand Up!, you get a sense of his human nature.

Playing at the Lyric Theatre until 8 January 2023.

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REFLECTIONS | Berlin, Bar Jeder Vernunft

Recommended

Jack Woodhead’s new show Reflections is bruising, wounding cabaret in all its rabid, raucous splendour. After committing a murder – matricide – reflecting is Jack’s coping mechanism, a spectacular and intimate form of PTSD. Jack’s shimmering and darting reflections move with streamline precision towards redemption through loss of memory. In his own words, Jack searches “far and wide” for his forgotten inner child. He must remember what is forgotten, in order to forget what he remembers.

But did Jack murder his mother? Perhaps he’s just a little drunk, just a little lonely, sipping a tipple while sitting in a moth-eaten armchair in a cold flat in a dark windswept city no one has heard of. Perhaps he lives a life of quiet desperation that reaches sublime heights that no one will ever know.

Reflections is life seen through a peephole, magnified and whispered through art and alcohol. It shows how life can slap you around and you may just slap it back. It shows imagination as a corrective and rampart to reality. But though reality bites back, the siren call of the forgotten inner child, lured to the surface by alcohol, trauma, or simply by childlike wonder, can provide solace.

Somewhere between Beethoven and burlesque, with his band of four, Jack Woodhead manages to negotiate a musical metamorphosis from concert pianist to cabaret star. His dramatic make-up is only surpassed by his eccentric stage outfits. Flashy and provocative in nail varnish, leather, fur and sequins, he moves elegantly and sleekly across the stage. His performance is lightning fast, sharp as a razor and completely wacky.

Next playing 25 April and 13 June 2022 at Bar Jeder Vernunft, Berlin.

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