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Review: Bin Laden at Holden St Theatres

By Carly Fisher

Tea anyone?

An usual beginning to a show – the performer is offering the audience tea, asking for their preference in how they take it and delivering it to their seats.

Even more unusual, this show is about Osama Bin Laden…where does the tea come in?

Right from our entrance into the theatre, performer, Sam Redway lures us into a very familiar comfortability – we are drinking tea together, speaking calmly and in a call and response style Q&A, we are asked to offer our opinions of our government, our world and our part in it.

So far, everything has been very friendly. And so, when Redway then introduces himself to us as Abu - ‘like Aladdin’s monkey friend’ – a nickname for Bin Laden, we accept it as the friendly gesture in which it is offered. From this moment – about 10 minutes into the 60 minute piece, we are shown how one man can rationalize any action as necessity in a quest to change the world. In fact, at this moment, we are being told to believe that we could too…and we are believing every word.

Redway takes us through some of the defining moments of Bin Laden’s life in a sort of ‘motivational coaching’ style lecture that is interrupted by Redway dramatically portraying key moments of his life – for example, as he takes up a gun in war or puffs his chest in the glory of the light in victory. With the exception of two audience members called on to participate in the roles of Bin Laden’s wife and later his friend/mentor, the stage is relatively bare (bar a stand for his butcher’s paper note book and a table full of tea and mugs) and Redway must personify all that he would like us to see about Bin Laden’s life.

This production has been exceptionally successful thus far and has played to audiences over 130 times around the world. For the most part, one can totally see why – the topic is interesting and the content is exceptionally researched. Bin Laden is divisive – he is as intriguing as he is demonized and in many ways, even from the title of the show ‘Bin Laden: A One Man Show,’ we are excited to see what is to be said about the man behind one of the most radically world-changing events in modern history.

For me, parts of the show were over acted and I preferred being left to my own devices to come to conclusions about the scenarios put before me. I felt that had the show ended with a sharp black out after the first mention of the twin towers (mentioned only in the form of 2 rectangles drawn on a paper), I would have been spell bound, whereas the standing ending dragged for me.

That said, I am thrilled that this show was included in the Adelaide Fringe Festival and that I did not miss out on this one! As a team Redway and co-writer and director, Tyrrell Jones have created a very clever and highly intriguing piece of theatre that absolutely achieves their mission of sparking conversation and debate.

Unquestionably, the greatest achievement of the piece and a true testament to Redway’s skills on stage is just how easily we could see how Bin Laden may have been forced to come to the decision that he did. Probably for many audience members, this was the first time that his descent to evil, but also his persuasiveness to convince so many to join or at least support him, made sense. And that truly will spark conversation! Congratulations to Jones and Redway.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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