Currently, Declan Spaine is in the cast of new musical Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical as Ensemble, as well as covering the roles of Bob Marley and Chris Blackwell, with the show at Lyric Theatre marking his West End debut. Since graduating from Italia Conti, Declan’s first professional role was in Red Dust Road for National Theatre of Scotland, and he has more recently performed at Above the Stag Theatre as Michael in Four Play. Declan has screen experience having played Tony in the 2020 short film The Gossip. Speaking with Declan, he answers our questions about making his West End debut in Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical, understudying the lead role of Bob Marley and playing Michael in Four Play.
How is it being in the cast of Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical as Ensemble and performing the choreography?
It’s great. I have so much fun and get to listen to the music of Bob Marley every day. I’m not a trained dancer so it’s been hard work getting to grips with the choreography but so rewarding now I am able to do it. I’ve also got a few more moves for when I’m out dancing which always helps.
You understudy the roles of Bob Marley and Chris Blackwell, what is it like portraying each and singing the Bob Marley music?
So far, I have only really delved into the role of Bob Marley because it’s such a mammoth of a character. He is a fascinating human being and one that seems, almost, god-like so it has been very important to find the flaws in his character because that’s what makes him human. That’s what makes him playable, likeable and even relatable. Singing his music is an honour, the detail of his lyrics and the way he constructs his music is fascinating. It is so politically charged and motivated by love and oneness. It’s beautiful being able to sing the words he wrote.
Why would you recommend seeing the show and what is it like having The Bob Marley Musical as your West End debut?
I couldn’t have asked for a better West End debut to be honest, the amount I have already learnt is crazy. Being in a majority black cast is extremely refreshing and then to add to that the quality of actors within the cast makes the whole experience a little surreal at times. To add on top, telling the story of one of the world’s most prevalent revolutionaries is a bit of a dream come true. If you want to see a powerful, moving and inspiring piece of work, then this is a show I would definitely recommend seeing.
What are you most looking forward to for continuing your run at the Lyric Theatre?
I’m most looking forward to performing as Bob in front of an audience.
How was the experience playing Michael in Four Play at Above the Stag?
It was challenging. The character was very far away from who I am so to step towards Michael and put on his clothes was uncomfortable at times but ultimately, very freeing for me.
What was it like working with the cast and creatives of the play?
It’s the smallest company of artists I’ve worked with. There were four actors, a director, associate director and a designer. We became a very close-knit family and it made the process truly collaborative. There was no hierarchy and a very safe space which was needed due to the content of the play.
You made your professional debut with the National Theatre of Scotland, what was Red Dust Road like to do?
It was very fun. Extremely overwhelming jumping from drama school straight into a professional setting, I had to learn a lot very quickly. I was greatful of the three years I’d spent training as it gave me insight into how a rehearsal room works but I did have to learn a lot about what happens outside of the rehearsal room and your professionalism.
How did you find your time playing Maxwell/Kachi and do you have any stand-out highlights from being in the show?
Truthfully, I found it quite challenging. Realising you’re not performing in the safety net of your drama school but for a paying audience in a 650-seat auditorium was sobering for me. Suddenly all the work became real and “serious” and the play element was lost fairly quickly which is when it became challenging. I got some really great advice from Lewis Howden, who played my father in the show, and I started to understand how necessary the elememt of fun and play was to an actor. Stand-out moment was probably meeting Jackie Kay’s family when the show opened. Telling the story of a family who are alive today and seeing what it means to them to have bits of their life on stage. I felt very grateful and honoured to be a part of the show.
Do you have any favourite theatre shows to watch and which would you like to see that you haven’t done so as yet?
Cliché but I love watching Hamlet. It’s a role I want to play one day so it’s very stimulating watching other actors take on that character.
Where does your love of acting come from and how did you start?
My love of acting comes from my secondary school teacher Anneka Davies. She was one of the first teachers that was interested in the way I liked to learn and wouldn’t kick me out of the class for being disruptive but instead took the time to understand why I was. We went to see a play called Travelling Light at the National Theatre in 2012 and I remember coming out having fallen in love with what theatre can do to you; it’s able to transport you to a completely different world and let you forget about the one you’re living in. We had a backstage tour before and I just remember thinking I need to be here, in the wings, one day.
Was there anything that encouraged you to train at Italia Conti and can you say about some of the shows you performed in whilst there?
If I’m honest, no. I auditioned for a handful of drama schools and got accepted into Conti, I had a good feeling about it so made the decision. I got to look at a very wide range of text whilst there, a lot of Shakespeare, some Chekov, Tennessee Williams, August Wilson and also more contemporary writers like Roy Williams and Arinzé Kene. It really allowed me to widen and hone the skills that are required when visiting different periods and genres and start to become more versatile in my ability as an actor.
What do you enjoy most about having a theatre career?
The thing I most enjoy is researching the most random subjects. Since you have the potential to play any character you could end up looking into any topic if it relates to how they might live or the world they live in. It really widens your view on the world and challenges your own perceptions and perspectives as a human which is very interesting. You also pick up some obscure facts and general knowledge when doing so which is fun.
How do you like to spend your time away from acting?
I like to write; scripts, poetry, songs and play guitar so I can easily spend the days doing that. I also love a good series, I’m currently watching The Wire as I’ve heard it’s one of the best out there, I’ve loved Season 1.
Last year, you appeared as Tony in the short film The Gossip, can you tell us more about this?
It was the first short film I have appeared in. It gave me a great insight into how things run on set comparatively to in a theatre and the differences of what is required of you as an actor. It was a fun experience, the film itself explores how honest people are talking about a third party when they aren’t present and the reaction of that third party when privy to that conversation.
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