Clint Dyer replaces Dominic Cooke to direct Bob Marley musical

The conversation about race ‘has changed in theatre, as it has across society’, says original director of the show Get Up, Stand Up!

Clint Dyer is to direct a new stage musical about Bob Marley after the original director, Dominic Cooke, stepped aside to acknowledge that “the conversation about race has changed in theatre, as it has across society”.

Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Story, which will star Arinzé Kene as the reggae superstar, was developed by writer Lee Hall and Cooke, who are both white. Cooke said he had had an inspiring time preparing the production and called Dyer “a brilliant theatre-maker and an inspiring leader. I can’t wait to see what he brings to this powerful story.”

Dyer, who had a hit earlier this year with Death of England at the National Theatre, said: “As a British Jamaican I have been a Marleyite since I could hear.” The musical, which has been in development for three years, will tell Marley’s life story using some of his best-known songs, including No Woman, No Cry, Exodus and Three Little Birds.

Dyer and Cooke have worked together on several occasions, including on an acclaimed adaptation of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom by August Wilson at the National Theatre in 2016. Dyer praised Cooke’s “integrity, sensitivity and of course immense talent” and added that Marley had been an inspirational figure to millions: “Right now we need his unifying voice and ideas, to guide and inspire us towards redemption and true hope for the future.”

The show’s producers thanked Cooke for his contribution to the project and said Dyer was an inspiring director who would bring Marley’s music to life “in the most thrilling way”.

In 2005, Dyer became the first black British artist to direct a musical in London’s West End: his Olivier award-nominated production The Big Life took inspiration from Shakespeare’s Love’s Labours Lost in its stories of Windrush-generation Brits. Another musical about Bob Marley, One Love, written and directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah and originally staged in Baltimore, opened at Birmingham Rep in 2017.

There has been increasing debate in the arts about, to quote the hit musical Hamilton, “who tells your story”. The National Theatre’s 2019 adaptation of Andrea Levy’s novel Small Island was a critical and commercial success but drew some criticism for being adapted by a white writer (Helen Edmundson) and staged by a white director (Rufus Norris).

Get Up, Stand Up – The Bob Marley Story is scheduled to open in the refurbished Lyric theatre in London’s West End next spring.


Chris Wiegand

The GuardianTramp

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