Living a dream
Maxwell ready to get 'Marley' movingSunday, August 08, 2021
BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Jamaican dancer and choreographer Shelley Maxwell is living her dream.
Now based in the UK, Maxwell has been drafted into the production team charged with bringing Get up Stand Up, t he Bob Marley Musical to life at the Lyric Theatre in London's West End later this year.
“In 2010, while I was a performer in Fela, alongside fellow Jamaican Jermaine Rowe, I became aware of this musical which was being staged in Baltimore in the US at the time. I thought to myself if it ever came here I would love to be a part of it... haffi be part of it somehow, some way. So, when I heard it was coming this way, I just put it out there and magically the universe responded. Long story short my agent called to tell me I was being given the chance to create the movement for the work, “she told the Jamaica Observer during an interview
Maxwell and her cast are moving into their second week of rehearsals for the musical, which is set to open in October and run until December. However, she explained that the team has been involved in research and development for the past two years, utilising different iterations of the script to create potential movement patterns. Now that the script is “fairly” set Maxwell is working on getting her cast comfortable with moving in a certain way, while grounding and rooting them in the Jamaican body aesthetic.
This representation of Jamaica and Jamaican culture is extremely important to Maxwell.
“This is a different type of musical and, therefore, requires a different type of movement. It is the cultural embodiment of how Jamaicans move and although the majority of the cast is black British. I look forward to share my knowledge as a Jamaican with them. The vision is to bring a level of authenticity to the stage. It is not like a Dreamgirls. I want the movement to be true to the period so there can be a longevity. I don't want it to be dated. I am also pushing myself to not make it too literal and create a contemporary feel with space and direction so that the rhythm bounces off the stage and the audience gets the vibe,” Maxwell explained.
The production's website noted that the award-winning team of writer Lee Hall, director Clint Dyer, and Arinzé Kene, who plays Bob Marley, capture the rebellious spirit and story of the international icon and bring a tale of passion, political unrest, and progress from Trench Town to the West End. The production has also been given unlimited access to Marley's multi-platinum-selling catalogue of reggae anthems to choose from for the two-hour musical. The production was originally scheduled to take to the stage last year, but fell prey to the global health crisis caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus. The producers stress in their promotion that all COVID-19 protocols will be strictly observed in the theatre when the production opens.
This project for Maxwell represents a critical moment in what she calls the second phase of her career.
“The first part of my life was more performance-oriented. I did a lot of musical theatre, dance, etc. Now this second wave sees me moving into more choreography, movement, and working in theatre, as well as for shows and film. The truth is they are both connected, as what I am now doing has been influenced by my years on stage as a performer. I can recall being in Lion King and I was always backstage learning production elements, so I am really just an artist as the elements of maker and performer are really married and one is always feeding the other.”
“As a little girl I always knew this is what I wanted to do... from I was seven years old. I remember being in my grandmother's backyard and being asked and I said I wanted to be a performer on Broadway creating movement for productions. That's what I'm doing now. So I'm living the dream, that seven-year-old's best life. This is my dream project. I have put in the work, done the research and now ready to translate all that into movement,” she added.
Maxwell's other related passion is a production company she co-founded, Bennu Creative House, which aims to produce material for all media, telling stories from the perspective of people of colour.
“As a producer I wanted to bring these voices to the forefront. I am passionate about this and we have already started working on some stuff, which I can't speak about just yet,” said Maxwell.