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David Heron on Being in the Musical Marley
For the past few years actor and playwright David Heron has been veering towards the classic on the stage, recently appearing in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus and Much Ado About Nothing. Heron is however now in the cast of Kwame Kwei Armah’s take on the life of reggae legend Bob Marley in the musical Marley.
Marley, with Mitchell Brunings in the title role, opened at the Baltimore Centerstage Theatre in mid-May where it will continue to play through to June 14, 2015. Heron takes on the role of Tony Welsh, one of the loyal PNP supporters who along with the aptly named Tek Life and Claudie Massop (himself made famous in Dancehall lore) are sent to bring Marley back from his self-imposed exile after the attempt on his life.
“My acting resume had been leaning towards the very classical for the last few years, so to do Marley- which is a modern period piece and my first ever musical- is an exciting and very different challenge,” Heron says of the experience.
Heron remarks that he found Tony Welsh’s quiet to be one of the most challenging aspects of the role as he therefore had to rely on his body to speak more eloquently than his voice.
“In my Shakespearean or other classical roles, the language- the spoken word- has been everything. With Tony Welsh, it’s how he uses his body that helps inform who he is. His silences speak volumes and he says more with a look or gesture than a half page of dialogue,” Heron says. “That’s a very new, more controlled, style of performance than I’m used to playing, but Kwame is a brilliant and collaborative director and his help has been invaluable to me.”
Heron expresses admiration for the characters as well as his fellow actors, and describes Marley as one of his most important projects of his career.
“There was still a code of honor and respect among them. And acting those scenes out with Luke, who is of Jamaican parentage, and John Andrew, who is Jamaican like me, as well as Howard Overshown, who portrays Michael Manley- is just incredible,” Heron said. “They are all amazing actors, and the same can truly be said of the entire cast, nearly thirty strong. It’s just a real honor to be part of something so massive and so well received. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most important projects of my career to date.”
Though Heron barely has any personal memory other than a vague sense of fear about this period tumultuous period during the 1970s, Marley is not his first encounter with the reggae legend’s music and he feels as though despite this being his first musical, a part of him has returned to his theatrical roots.
“I was singing those songs years ago when I first started my performing career with the UWI Singers, under Mr. Noel Dexter and Professor Rex Nettleford - and now here I am, doing them all over again… It feels a homecoming- like a part of my life has come full circle,” Heron said. “And it’s pretty cool.”