Stay Up

Remember my obsession with the corporeal simplicity of The Ocean at the End of the Lane’s final image? 

As previously detailed, I’m a fan of theater — bodies in space! — that finds a physical gesture to end on that encapsulates the evening-long explorations of its grandiose ideas.

An unlikely example, currently playing on the West End: the Bob Marley jukebox bio-musical Get Up, Stand Up! But labeling it unlikely is unfair: the title describes physical movement, and Marley’s music has long been misunderstood as substance bereft…a truth conveyed in the production’s final image.

The story positions his death as a sacrifice to his cause; instead of pausing his career at the height of his influence to seek medical help — which would’ve necessitated betraying his Rastafarian precepts — he realized that fame is fickle, and if he didn’t take advantage of his fleeting platform to spread his gospel, then perhaps less of the world would be converted.

As the lights dim, we see him running in place, as a montage projection of clips from the postmortem sociopolitical movements that bear his influence flash by behind him, the legacy he never got to experience himself, but one tied directly to his martyrdom. Because he chose to keep running in life, despite the fatal consequences, this decision helped ensure his eternal impact; he quite literally walked his talk, to such a degree that it could be considered sprinting. 

Marley is commonly associated with the opposite of such speed. He’s an icon of chill, laidback stonerism, a reduction of his real lifestyle and beliefs; even though he’s now a symbol for empty kumbayaism, this modern-day perception stems from how rooted he actually was in a deep understanding of the human condition, and his passion for acceptance over brutality (while still calling out the brutalizers, and defending the brutalized).

His commitment to these ideals was radical in its extremity, and radically presented to the extreme (a pre-Buffett license to chill, if you will). This commitment is mixed in the stew of what has engendered sheep to his flock for generations, the very same commitment that also killed him. Callous as it may sound, the nature of his demise proved he really was about that life, the life he preached and lived, so much so that he put his life on its line, the stuff that messianic, mythological figureheads are made of.

His ideology was everything to him — personal and sociopolitical — and, thereby, to his followers, to this day.

And all of this is wrapped up in the show’s final gesture. It’s a sped-up version of his customary dance — leaned back on his haunches, swaying with the music — casual choreography that became part and parcel with his worldview; his movement represents his aforementioned movements. By fasting-forwarding both this dance and through time (thanks to the projections), his principled fidelity in continuing to move in his own way transforms into an act of defiance; it’s his figurative Redemption Song.

He stayed true to himself and, in the process, changed the future of the world, and humanity’s place in it. His dedication transcended and transcends the spiritual, philosophical, sociopolitical and cultural, to reach the realm of the metaphysical (meta! physical! c’mon!).

Like The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Get Up, Stand Up! concludes with all this macro embodied in and through the micro.

Which defined Bob Marley’s raison d’être approach.

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