Gabrielle Brooks, Rita Marley, Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical, Lyric Theatre
How has your journey been from when the theatres closed up until reopening?
Yeah, I think like many people, I had time to sort of reset and re-evaluate my whole life and existence. And it gave me time to just reflect on what I really wanted to do. And the thing that I really realised that I want to do is match my activism with my art. So, coming back and doing a show like Get Up Stand Up couldn’t have been more perfect.
How has it been being back in Get Up Stand Up, a show that’s not even opened before, new to the world?
Doing a completely new show coming back is really, really special, because people are more hungry for theatre than they ever were before. But I think they’re a lot more open to newer things. But then also we’re doing something that feels so iconic and bringing Bob Marley’s music to the West End. And so yeah, it’s been a pretty special ride, so far.
What have you missed in particular from live performance?
I miss bringing people together for a united cause. I miss surprising audiences. I miss bringing people joy. I miss just being able to do my job, because I love it and it’s what I’ve done since I was a little kid.
Arinzé Kene, Bob Marley, Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical, Lyric Theatre
How has your journey been since theatres closed up until Get Up Stand Up reopening?
It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster, because I love the theatre, it’s my second home. And having it shut was kind of traumatic, actually. I’m still getting over it. But, I’m probably more a fan of theatre than I am a contributor. And so, it really sucked not being able to go and watch stuff. And it was quite sobering. It reminded me of why we do what we do. Live performance is irreplaceable. You can have your Hulu and Netflix and Amazon all day long. I’ll pick theatre and live performance over it, 100 million times.
Just… you can make superheroes that fly from buildings and stuff with CGI. But you cannot recreate a moment in time. And live performance is that. You won’t get it again. You get it this one time and that’s it, that’s the deal. So, getting to come back to the theatres, to audiences. These collaborations that we make, these friends that we make through, kind of, a shared kind of creative dream. It’s quite amazing, it’s marvellous. That’s the real marvel if. You want to stay on that.
How has it been bringing this show to an audience? Being back on stage but also bringing Get Up, Stand Up, a new show, to the West End?
It’s the perfect show to say, welcome [it] back. I feel like we’ve been in a lot of pain. Because of the pandemic, but. Other things have been happening. We just really needed a show that speaks about healing, togetherness, love. Yeah, and that the fact we are all on that spiritual journey.
What did you miss in particular about live performance?
As a performer, it’s an outlet that I’ve gotten used to it just being there. It’s quite therapeutic. It helps me to sort out my head and, life. You really recognise it when it’s not there. So, from a health point of view, I definitely missed that. I like having it back. And yeah, since theatres have been back, I’ve been a theatre rat. I’ve seen loads of stuff. I have one day off a week and I’ve spent that evening for the last few weeks in a theatre seeing something. Because I’ve just missed the lessons, you know, that you learn from watching someone or a cast tell beautiful story. I think from when we’re kids, part of socialising in person is through storytelling.
You know, as kids we learn so much, whether you’re watching Nickelodeon, Disney Channel or CBBC, Dora the Explorer telling you a story. And the whole punch line is about sharing, caring, or whether you’re a kid in Church and you get told a parable about forgiveness. We never stopped learning from stories. Last week, I saw Hamlet. And you walk away and feel wiser. You know, you can’t show a five-year-old Hamlet. Or, maybe you can. But, for me, that’s for a mature brain and you go away with lessons and sometimes you can’t even compute it right away, you know, put it into words. But you walk away and you see what trauma does. You see what pain can create. You see what love can heal – the things that I learned from Cush Jumbo’s performance. And you have ideas walking away from that – I’ve missed that.
Storytelling is told on many different platforms. But the collective experience of theatre that makes it very different. I can’t just walk up, you know, I just can’t put play on pause and go make some popcorn in my little kitchen and tell all the audiences to wait, can just talk amongst yourselves. Or, like ‘I’m gonna pick up this phone call, actually’. You are made to be disciplined, you know, and to kind of sit through it, you know. And there is a discipline in sitting through three hours of a performance and sitting and taking a lesson on it.
Martina Laird, Associate Director, Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical, Lyric Theatre
What has the journey been like to getting back to theatres reopening for you personally?
It’s been a very delicate process getting back into theatre. We were all excited about the production because it’s about Bob Marley. And, you know, that’s very meaningful to so many of us. Also, we have a lovely company of people. But I could tell when we started initially that people were still a little bit kind of shell shocked coming into public, into each other’s company again, after being isolated for so long. Yeah, so it was a very delicate process getting people to feel comfortable. And figuring out how to work and be safe.
How does it feel now that things are starting to open up again and we can go back to theatre?
Oh, it’s very exciting. It’s very exciting to be going back to theatre. The audiences are going mad at the show. It’s constantly like this party atmosphere – partly because it’s Bob Marley, so a lot of people in this country associate that with having a good time. But also, I think people just are so joyful to be in a celebratory environment and with other people and having a good time. It can be very easy to get a bit carried away!
And what was it that initially drew you to the stage and theatre?
I started theatre as a child in Trinidad and Tobago. And I knew straight away not just that it was a wonderful forum for storytelling or for seeing exciting performances, but also, I knew even at that young age that this was a place to explore identity. And a place to come together to examine our lives, our culture, our minds together as a community.