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Actor Daniel Bailey joins 50th anniversary of 'Hair'

PICTURED: Daniel Bailey

2017. BELLOWING from the high-rise flats and rattling around the council estates that I grew up on, the cries of a million voices are stifled into invisibility. The gentrified boroughs; elevated into esteem, are built upon a torrent of political tension, roaring under the canopy of social-media. Where the world is free to post pictures of their Thursday night dinner’s and rant aggressively about the weather. Our new millennial freedom of speech… abused.

A far cry from the social-climate of 1967, when HAIR the musical debuted. The writers, James Rado and Gerome Ragni's, first agenda, was to promote freedom of speech at a time where the news was funnelled directly through a television set or newspaper, with little-to-no infiltration or comment from the public. 50 years on, the show is back.

And in today’s climate, the show questions how we use our freedom of speech in a social media frenzy that has detonated a billion voices into cyber-verbal diarrhoea. I will be joining the cast of HAIR, to celebrate its 50th anniversary and to remind the next generation of its power.

To rehearse for HAIR the Musical, is to drill through the minds of its writers in 1967. Unpicking the threads of a country’s dark history, and to shell back the layers of social injustice, racial inequality and political carnage.

HAIR follows a tribe of hippies, who reside in Central Park (New York), challenging the ideas of patriarchy, religion, sexuality, class, age, race, war and politics; highlighting the issues that still echo within the heartbeat of our society today. To address such a heavy load of topics, I had to smoothen out the kinks in my own opinions and brave myself to address some subjects that I’m wary of.

One being my race. The songs Coloured Spade and Abie Baby, address the delicate subject of the black experience within society, with pizzazz and flair. The songs lyrics reflect the ethnic-slurs, slavery and inequality to its audience through performance, to provoke debate.

Our own social climate is still rife with racial tension and prejudices, affecting me daily. The colour of my skin affects me daily and frankly, having to address or defend my race so frequently is exhausting. However, if I do not address it, then who will? What better and healthier way of doing so than through my creativity.

To prepare for rehearsals, I peered into realms of black history beat back the traumas of slavery and racial inequality to fully understand the weight to each lyric. For my own sanity and energy, I found it crucial to research the positives in black history also; like the wealth of African culture, civil rights leaders and movements, artists, writers and musicians. I believe it’s detrimental to the progression of an oppressed race to persistently show them negatives of themselves, but still important to acknowledge and respect that these issues are still occurring today.

NEW ROLE: Bailey will star in 'Hair'

One of the topics that seizes me, both as an actor and an aspiring journalist, is the through-line subject of the Vietnam war and the contrast of HAIR’s original media climate in 1967 and the present day 2017. War is so much apart of our world, but yet it’s rare that we comment on it.

During the Vietnam war and birth of mass media, images of the horror in battle had been revealed. Footage of tin can coffins, draped in star-spangled duvets flashed across TV screens. While the veterans that survived, returned severed by the landmines that petrified their limbs away.

The way this media generated a counter-culture who risked their lives and their freedom to fight for a cause; challenges my own thoughts on my response to warfare news. How desensitised to images of warfare have we become? Does having a page 3 model next to a bombed country make it equal news? How receptive are we to act against social injustice unless it directly affects us?

HAIR broke boundaries; reflecting currant affairs onto the stage, instead of creating an escape from reality.

I am honoured to be given this responsibility and to have the opportunity to use my creativity to challenge my peers and to remind them of their privilege of free speech. To readdress my motives of being an actor, and to question our social climate – all through the musical phenomenon HAIR.

HAIR revolutionises and inspires my thinking everyday we rehearse and will be just as important in 50 years time, as it was when it first opened in 1967. With so much happening within politics and the explosion of social media, it’s important that we keep on the front foot and explore how to use our 140 characters for change.

Change, from the comfort and ease of our couch, the mundane travel into work or over last-weeks leftovers.

The 50th Anniversary production of HAIR
VENUE: THE VAULTS (Launcelot Street, London SE1 7AD)
BOX OFFICE: 020 7401 9603
TWITTER: @Hair50London

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