Review: One Love – The Bob Marley Musical at the Birmingham REP

Never got to see Bob Marley in concert? The last 20 minutes of One Love, on stage at the Birmingham REP until mid-April, will make you feel like you were right there at the legendary peace concert in 1978.

We can all name a handful of Bob Marley songs, but many of us aren’t aware of the story behind the man himself and just how he rose to fame, becoming the biggest reggae performer of all time. One Love – The Bob Marley Musical features key moments in his life; from The Wailers’ original members leaving the group and the assassination attempt at his home in Kingston, to the release of Exodus, which featured hits Jamming, Three Little Birds and One Love.

The play, written and directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, also shows a side to Marley that fans wouldn’t have known. From the turbulent relationship with his wife Rita, to his ability to push his closest friends and family members away, all in the name of music.

Although the show allows us to step into the world of Bob Marley, the audience is also taken to Jamaica, which was on the brink of civil war, and learn about just how divided the country was.

The show not only takes place in Jamaica, it also has a huge chunk set in London in the mid-70s, a scene in Ethiopia and even a hilarious snippet in Dudley. With thanks to incredible stage design and the use of screens, we are transported around the world incredibly well and it feels like we are right there.

One LoveThe leading role is played by Mitchell Brunings, who manages to sound just like the main man himself. Mitchell, whose time on The Voice Of Holland catapulted him into the spotlight in 2013, simply does an incredible job. He is captivating and cheeky, yet believable and passionate.

Just one of the show’s highlights is when he performs Waiting In Vain and No Woman No Cry with wife Rita.

In fact, Rita Marley, played by Alexia Khadime, is the stand out performer in the show. She manages to get the audience on her side with her gentle nature, but we fall for her even more when she shows her sassy and independent traits, especially when she learns of her husband’s womanising ways with “Miss Jamaica” Cindy Breakspeare, played by Cat Simmons.

Although the show is heavily politically influenced and at times very dark, with the help of comedic characters and a joke here and there, the audience aren’t withdrawn to tears.

The music helps, of course, with over 25 musical numbers throughout the play.

However, the music and storyline manages to balance itself out well, and there isn’t too much or too little of either. After all, this isn’t Mamma Mia or Grease, there is a real story to tell and a man to represent.

One LoveThe cast give the audience exactly what they have craved for the duration of the show right at the end and turns the theatre into a concert. They dragged people up onto the stage and encouraged us all to sing along and dance, which was great fun and left us all leaving on a high, singing into Centenary Square.

At times, the play did seem to drag and it didn’t need to be as long as it was. There were also key moments that were over in just 20 seconds, which left the audience attempting to keep up with who was who and what year we were now on.

However, there is no denying that this show is as close to authentic as you can get without heading over to Jamaica. From costume design to the range of sets, the research has been put into this play and it shows in the character’s and ensemble’s polished performances. Even if you aren’t the biggest reggae fan, you are bound to enjoy the story and to learn more about the legend Bob Marley.

One Love is on stage at the Birmingham REP until April 15.

One Love rating: 9/10