Clint Dyer enters the cafeteria of a rehearsal complex in south London. It’s cool, or as cool as the suffocating weather of early September can be given, from a tour of Get Up, Stand Up !, a Bob Marley jukebox musical written by Lee Hall, best known for Billy Elliot’s screenplay. and the later stage musical, which he co-wrote with Elton John. I see the end of the rehearsal, the end of the show, which goes from Marley receiving his diagnosis of terminal cancer to a tentative version of Three Little Birds that begins as if Marley couldn’t summon the emotions necessary to deliver your carefree message, and then gradually. gain momentum. It’s a genuinely intriguing repositioning of a song turned off by familiarity, the strength of the performance helped by the fact that, even in a rehearsal studio, with the wig she wears to simulate the obvious dreadlocks of Marley, Arinzé Kene he has the movements of the deceased singing on stage: pointing and gesturing like a preacher, the skanking dance that regularly became a kind of running in the same place.
It remains to be seen how a Bob Marley jukebox will do in the West End. An earlier attempt to put Marley’s life story on stage marked by her songs, Kwame Kwei-Armah’s One Love, was presented in Baltimore in 2015 and at Birmingham Rep two years later, but Get Up, Stand Up! it is a very different proposition. Kwei-Armah’s work focused on the years Marley spent in exile in England after surviving an assassination attempt in 1976, while “hopefully this will be the full journey,” as Dyer says. . “I think that’s a lot more of an impressionistic deepening in Bob’s heart and mind, so of course we’re sticking to what really happened. But, as Bob would say, the only real fact is Jah, and I think we’re following that kind of line, because we’re trying to convey his ideals and his philosophies. his life. “
It is certainly difficult to see how the play could have ended with a more suitable director than Dyer. Not only because of his stellar list of theatrical successes: he was the first black Briton to direct a West End musical (The Big Life, acclaimed and nominated by Olivier in 2005), he is the only British black artist to He has worked at the National Theater as an actor, writer and director, and was appointed Deputy Artistic Director of the National in January, but because he is obviously a complete Marley fan, obsessed with the differences between the Jamaican recordings of the singer and those he did thinking of an Anglo-American market. , intrigued by the complicated relationship between Marley and his wife, Rita.
Dyer tells me he put his kids to sleep when they were babies by singing Marley songs to them, even though the lyrics were “inappropriate, but the melodies were beautiful, they didn’t know it, so it’s okay.” He says: “It seems to me that some people were taught lullabies; They taught me Bob Marley songs. It seems to be completely and absolutely my DNA … We learned about ourselves through the songs. I would go to school and the only story they wanted to tell me about people coming from the countries I come from is that we were slaves, that was all! So all of a sudden, Rastas came and said “well, actually, I think you’ll find …”, it was “What?” Many times they did it with humor, they did it with the utmost style and conviction. It was a very seductive way to hear your truth. “
However, production has not been free of disturbances. There was Covid to deal with: “I had a cold, I had a false positive and I had to direct Zoom for three days while we waited for a PCR,” sighs Dyer. murder”- and last year, Get up, get up! became part of the ongoing conversation about race in British theater, when its original director, Dominic Cooke, sided with saying that the conversation had “changed … as it has all society” . He called Dyer directly to ask him to take his place: they had worked together at the Royal Court when Cooke was artistic director, and Dyer directed Rachel De-lahay’s acclaimed play The Westbridge, and in the Renaissance Ma Rainey’s 2016 Black Bottom Cooke at the National. , in which Dyer played veteran trombonist Cutler.
When I ask Dyer about the phone call, he stops so long before answering that at first I think he has chosen his words carefully, but no. “So,” he finally began, “he called me the night before I went to the hospital for cancer treatment. It was one of the strangest and most amazing things that ever happened to me. I had cancer, this time a different one, which was especially annoying. I have high blood pressure, so I had to stay alone the night before and rest. I replied because there is still an element of him like my head of the Royal Court: ‘Dominic! hello! hello! yes, things are fine!’ Things weren’t going so well, and he said he wanted to leave the post and he wanted me to run it. angry worker mourning his father and his nation, which Dyer co-wrote and directed.
“I guess he thought it was okay to resign because of the political situation; you should ask him,” Dyer continues. “It simply came to our notice then [stood aside] and he ordered everyone to bring in someone just to be black, someone who didn’t think he could do it, I don’t know. But I don’t think I felt like leaving him in the lurch if he did. “He laughs.” I’m being asked to direct a musical about a boy who died of cancer. Dear, oh, dear! “
Following the announcement, Dyer was asked if he had advanced in diversity in UK theater. He said he was not optimistic: “Whether or not this guilt becomes something that is recognizable to people who have suffered … some kind of reparation would be an interesting position to put people in.”
He adds: “I think the usual thing is for people to say, ‘Okay, let’s train some young black people,’ and then we have to hope that all these people have enough experience to be considered suitable for the job, and then another generation of people is lost, there is more reason to recognize the people who have really been doing it, in terrible circumstances, and to make sure that they are, on the one hand, announced to survive this fucking tyranny, and two, given the respect and work to justify the omission of the history of their talents.There are a lot of people who are clearly committed to this industry, they must be committed because they have endured all the shit for many fucking years, why would you choose a young man who has just found out if he likes it or not? They shouldn’t have the pressure of the world and the company saying, “Look! We are trying to help diversity; you must be brilliant! ‘ They don’t have to be brilliant! They don’t have to save your business! ”
Dyer was clear after cancer treatment in the second week of trials. No, he says, he never thought about quitting the job, with the understandable argument that he already had enough on the plate: “In fact, it made me think,‘ Right, I’ll definitely do it, then I can check it out. out. ‘”
The challenge, he says, is to produce a work that projects very familiar music in a new light. “Everyone thinks they know their songs, until they really hear them. So our job is to make people really listen to me, too. You think you know a letter and then you say, ‘Oh, my God, I really said that.’ You think you understand the real power of a song, and then you understand the story behind it, which is also a personal song, rather than a hymn of empowerment. In fact, it comes from something that happened to Bob, or it is an expression that is very personal to Bob. So what we’re hoping to do is personalize these songs, so we get into Bob’s head and heart. “