Singing sweet songs...

OF MELODIES PURE AND TRUE

"Kick him in the balls, Ruby. Kick him right in the balls". It's eleven days until curtain-up for the new production One Love: The Bob Marley Musical and the hugely likeable writer-director Kwame Kwei-Armah is giving notes to his cast, who are in near-constant laughter. Not content with wading into closed rehearsals, we also deny Kwame his hard-earned lunch, to hear about the man from Jamaica who changed the world with music. 
"When I was asked to write and direct Bob's story," says Kwame putting down his Jacob's Cream Cracker and leaning in, "the first question I asked myself was: What are the most important moments in Bob's life? And for me, they revolve around three concerts. Smile Jamaica took place two days after the attempted assassination of Bob, his wife and manager. And I thought, to get on stage after being shot, that's heroic. The second is when Bob returned from exile for the One Love Peace Concert, with a sense of déjà vu, probably asking himself — could I be shot again? And the third is when he played to mark the independence of Zimbabwe. That was huge. And so significant because while the guerrilla fighters were in the camps of the hinterland, before going into battle for freedom, it was Bob Marley's songs they would listen to."
Kwame is a Marley encyclopedia. But this isn’t a womb to tomb story. Its focus is on an intense three years of Bob's life, in which those first two events occurred. "While I would have loved to get the third concert into the production, you'll have to look out for One Love Two," he jests. "And to include the later part of his story would be to produce something akin to a Bob sing-along, rather than a concentrated hero’s journey. But these earlier years, that's exactly what they were. A hero's journey." Kwame's rarely without a beam, but this production has been no easy ride. The biggest pressure has been presenting the songs the audience want to hear, whilst telling the tale of a huge man that was so much more than his music  — what hurt Bob; what inspired him. "The key to pulling this off is two-fold," says Kwame. "First, it’s in the construction of the narrative — it’s not a jukebox musical, nor is it a play with music. It's about walking the line that sits between the two. And the musical rule of thumb? Sing only when words no longer suffice. Second, we've cast very good actors. Very good actors who can sing. Then we spent four weeks building a family, and creating an environment where the cast are also part of the big task we still have to accomplish. That's the concept anyway."
On the subject of his protagonist, Kwame is at his most thoughtful, speaking deliberately and with feeling. "It’s really hard to talk about any icon and not say something everyone has heard before. But ultimately I think of Bob in a beautiful marriage of politics, inspiration and melodic inspiration. Even if you don't know the words, the texture and the tone of his voice, and the melodies are sweet — they just work." Kwame pauses, then looks dead on, eyes dancing. "And when you do get round to the words, it just deepens the experience ten-fold, and you understand that he is speaking to a fundamental truth of our time, which is inequality and how to find peace. How to speak truth to power. How to not be defined by one's environment. How to rise and be one’s true self. I think wherever I’ve travelled in the world he’s meant something, because he is the articulator of the downpressed, whether spiritually or emotionally."
Previews for One Love: The Bob Marley Musical start at The Rep on March 10, with the show running right through until April 17. Tickets are from £10.
Venue: Buffalo & Rye, 11 Bennetts Hill, B2 5RE; website
Choice: French Dip (£7.95) Chooser: The Manager

Sandwiches are, like Lil Wayne, a global sort of a deal. Far be it for us to accuse burger and rib nerds Buffalo & Rye of being late to the party, but their new sanger-specific menu is their first foray into the cob world, some 340-odd years since they were sort of invented in Holland. In better news, it was worth the wait. Dipping gravies are now a big thing in Brum (the Brown Lion led the way) and B&R's French Dip — thinly sliced home-smoked and salt cured beef with smoked cheddar — comes with a sweet, meaty pot of richness into which you plunge your packed Peel & Stone sub. If this is all sounding a little heavy or, you know, it's Monday, the crayfish and smashed avocado on sliced white (£7.25) is the light and luscious antidote. And if you're in a hardshake kind of a place, the mint chocolate with Kraken spiced rum (£7) will whisk your mouth away to John O'Groats. Top-tip: If you work nearby and pre-order, Buffalo will walk your sandwiches over to your office. Menu  

FILM PICK: LOGAN


One of the advantages of the superhero franchise is that characters are enriched solely by being played by the same person for years. Hugh Jackman’s been Wolverine for a whopping 17 years, in seven films as lead, and while the results have been patchy, this likely swansong is the best of the bunch. A simply-plotted road movie that sees Logan protecting a young girl from the usual sinister mercenary types, it’s as much a western as a superhero yarn – perhaps a little too self-consciously so – but in its admission that even killing machines have to face mortality, this ends up feeling unexpectedly moving. Jackman, of course, is superb – but then again, he’s had plenty of practise. Times
 

LIMMY Q&A


For those unfamiliar with the ill wind that is online comedy star Brian "Limmy" Limond, our two favourite videos can be found here and here — both uncharacteristically free of colourful language. The lolzy viral genius began gaining cult followings when he launched podcast Limmy's World of Glasgow back in 2006, and in early 2010 he landed BBC sketch series Limmy's Show. Even if you're not willing to part with the mere £16 to see him at The Glee Club on June 13 (a Q&A and some readings from his book, Daft Wee Stories, rather than a full stand-up routine) you need to be following him on that there Twitter. You'll laugh like a goddamned drain guaran-damn-teed. 
 

FIESTA DE LOS MUERTOS


About as close as you're likely to get to the opening credits of Spectre, Festival of the Dead is coming to a Digbeth near you. And before you complete that little knowing sigh, it was hardly going to be taking place in Edgbaston now was it? Carnival-esque pageantry, giant skull processions, acrobats, piñatas, skull face painting and music at a volume that probably breaches some sort of directive in a goodly number of countries is what's included in your ticket. It's a house, bass and garage kind of deal — all with a Latin twist. And lots and lots of skulls for Pete's sake. We're a little bit obsessed with the promo video (headphones on). Early bird billets are all gone but you can book your little bit of Bond for £21.90 right here.
 
  • We're pretty serious advocates of the long lunch and mourn its loss of favour. Enter left, Annexe and a glorious sounding Argentinean wine and dine hurrah on March 11. It's £55 and includes sparkling Malbec
  • We've got a thing about The Flaming Lips. Get your own thing with a ticket to Innercitylive Festival on August 12
  • Birmingham's getting a vegan cafe in the form of Natural Healthy Foods, which is opening up on Suffolk Street Queensway (yes, that's the one with Island Bar on it), following on from its Digbeth store
  • With local makers showing off everything from ceramics to textiles, Quartermasters is at 1,000 Trades this Saturday. We'd see you there but we're not totally clear if we're barred right now
"The people who are trying to make this world worse aren't taking a day off. How can I?"  - Bob Marley
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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Andrew LowryTom Cullen

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