Bin Laden: The One Man Show
Things we loved
- Well crafted, sympathetic treatment of a global anti-hero
- Shone a light on the humanity that binds us all
Things we would reconsider
- Would like more notice about the post-show debate in the publicity material - you will leave impoverished if you skip that opportunity for debriefing
Bin Laden: The One Man Show will leave you pondering the question, when does idealism morph into fanaticism or delusion?
In this sympathetic treatment of arguably one of the world’s most significant anti-heroes, we get a non-tabloid portrait of a man who was one of many in the Middle East who turned to the “third way” (Islam) to find peace and justice after being let down by capitalism and socialism.
Knaïve Theatre’s Sam Redway breathes earnest life into the character of Osama Bin Laden aided by audience members and some thoughtful direction by Tyrrell Jones.
This production shines a piercing light into all the areas of hypocrisy and deliberate blindness in our western society. For example, by having Bin Laden played by a young, bright-eyed man from Manchester, we are drawn towards him because our media-fuelled fear response to figures from the Middle East is disarmed. This is similar to the blue eyed, blonde haired Caucasion Jesus worshipped by many who would recoil from the appearance of the historical figure with his brown/olive skin and “foreign” language.
We also glimpse and share the threads of love and familial bond between Bin Laden and his wife and son, humanising the “bogey man” for a few moments, at least.
But as we are drawn more deeply toward this character, as we hear of struggles against the Soviets in Afghanistan (your enemy is our enemy), we are then shaken awake from our empathy as geo-political changes and betrayals strike home and Bin Laden’s course is challenged and changed. His inner turmoil over the “selling out” of Saudi Arabia to the US, plants a seed that will soon grow into an aggressive weed destined to choke American/Western pride and insulation from tumult.
This production charts the fine balance (on a knife edge, perhaps) between being driven by idealism and a thirst for true justice and becoming obsessed by a cold bitter desire to wreak violence and destruction. We are asked what we would do, if we were placed in the same situation. Mass media is unable to paint an objective picture of “that situation” whereas Bin Laden: The One Man Show strives hard to help us see the world through the eyes of this incendiary revolutionary.
This is not a strawman play. Bin Laden is not built up to be torn down. This show is an opportunity to understand what drives “terrorism” so we can avert trouble and amend our ways (for we are part of this scourge on humanity too, through wilfullness and blissful ignorance). And it is timely, given that Osama bin Laden’s son has just announced he is taking over as al Qaeda leader. Theatre like this might be more helpful in finding a righteous way forward in peace, than heaping extra money into bombs and intelligence agencies.