September 25, 2021
The Actor and playwright is rapidly becoming one of the most exciting faces of British theatre. Now he’s stepping into the shoes of Bob Marley in the new West End musical Get Up, Stand Up
Arinzé Kene on playing Bob Marley: ‘You can’t just sit back and enjoy my work. I want you to be challenged’
Arinzé Kene’s life is usually one of perpetual motion: write, act, devise, repeat. Rest isn’t usually in the equation. During Misty – his 2018 play that became a sensation, melding a story about violence, gentrification and displacement – he didn’t leave the stage. The usual 20-second gaps, in which actors have a glass of water and take a breath as sets and costumes are changed, were removed. Kene just incorporated them into the action; frenetic is the speed at which he likes to live his life.
At 34, he has written half a dozen plays, appeared in EastEnders, cropped up in the starry BBC drama The Long Song, played Simba on stage in The Lion King, sung alongside Michaela Coel in the Netflix musical Been So Long, and been awarded an MBE for services to drama and screenwriting. It is his plays – which have consistently homed in on the tensions and pressures facing black men in the inner city – that have established him as one of British theatre’s most singular talents. The pick of them, the autobiographical Misty, opened at the Bush theatre before transferring to London’s West End. He is only the second black British playwright to have had work performed there, after Kwame Kwei-Armah.
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