Rush - A Joyous Jamaican Journey

“It is informative, educational, musically outstanding and a fun night out”.

Birmingham born Rush Theatre Company return to the Birmingham REP with Rush – A Joyous Jamaican Journey, and that couldn’t be any more spot on!  This evening was educational, but also one big party with plenty of bobbing heads and people up on their feet enjoying the incredible mix of tunes provided by the JA Reggae Band.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect of the evening, however it would be more described as a concert intertwined with some interesting facts about Jamaican culture and of course, the Windrush Generation.  The main point I took away from the evening was that the people who came over to the UK during 1948-1973 were INVITED, so for these people to have endured alienation from the Government and branded illegal immigrants really leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  Many of the people from the Caribbean came over to help the UK as it was rebuilding after World War II, so to be treated in such a despicable way is quite unbelievable.

The stage displayed a large screen, a podium draped in a Jamaican flag and an incredible 8-piece band with Ken Dread DJ at the helm.  Ken introduced us to the evening in a sparkly waistcoat, tails and the most impressive dreadlocks I’ve ever seen, they were literally trailing on the floor!  Ken is exuberant, full of energy and remained on stage throughout playing tracks from a turntable aswell as providing some of the backing vocals.

We meet our Narrator for the evening, John Simmitt, clearly very passionate about his culture as he appeared on stage wearing a Jamaican flag tie and was able to capture the audience’s attention for this 2 ½ hour show.  There were many interesting facts surrounding the Caribbean, but as John said, it’s all History, not Black History or White History, just History, as we all live on this planet together.  That really resonated with me, and I found it a very welcome and powerful statement.  John clearly enjoyed the night, dancing along on stage with the very infectious music.

We finally meet the two extraordinary vocalists for the evening, Janice Williamson and IKA, both of whom have outstanding voices and amazing stage presence.  IKA could have sung the phone book to me, and I would have been in awe!  He has such a velvet tone that he was completely mesmerising. Every tune he sang, the audience were in the palm of his hand.  Equally, Janice really knew how to command the stage and my personal favourite, My Boy Lollipop really excited the crowd and people started to get on their feet, as was the order of the evening.  This is very much a show where you can go and immerse yourself in the wonderful music by singing along and getting up on your feet at every opportunity, a real party vibe, as is synonymous with Jamaican culture.

We heard many songs throughout the evening, championing the very best of Jamaica, including hits from Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Desmond Dekker and Millie Small all played by the sensational JA Reggae Band.  Each and every one of the band members created a real buzz and joined in with the dancing rippling throughout the auditorium during the large number of songs they played.  This show really is jampacked with music from start to finish and certainly is ‘joyous’.

In short, this is the coolest history lesson I’ve ever had and for the music alone I would go again straight away!  It is informative, educational, musically outstanding and a fun night out.

Rush – A Joyous Jamaican Journey plays at the Birmingham REP until the 29th April 2023.  Tickets available here: RUSH | Birmingham Rep (birmingham-rep.co.uk)

Photo credit: Emma Rowley / ET Photography

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