Bin Laden. Arguably, the most hated individual of our generation. The founder of Al-Qaeda and mastermind behind 9/11- the catastrophe launching the war against terror as we know it today. When Barack Obama announced Bin Laden’s death back in 2011, thousands gathered at Ground Zero for mass celebration. American university students set off fireworks and ran wild around their campuses brandishing The Stars and Stripes. Indeed, there is no disputing the fact that Bin Laden is widely regarded as a monster and and his death a victory against terrorism.
In any case, the promise of a one-man show is often enough to get me to the theatre. An individual’s capability to both perform and retain an audience’s captivation sans support has never failed to amaze me. Given the show’s impressive Edinburgh Fringe run and impressive collection of awards, I was confident that Knaive Theatre’s creation Bin Laden- The One Man Show would be no exception. Therefore, when I heard that the tour was stopping at The Mercury Theatre on Thursday, getting my hands on a ticket was a no-brainer; sheer intrigue compelled my attendance.
Admittedly, my knowledge of Bin Laden’s background was sketchy at best. I had a vague idea that he was of a somewhat wealthy background and that the family are a big name in the Construction Industry. An hour after taking my seat in the auditorium, I knew exactly who this man was and what motivated him to take the action he did.
As the audience took their seats in the auditorium, a polite young man offered each person a cup of tea and a chocolate digestive.
This polite young man was Osama Bin Laden.
The show took the form of an hour-long monologue, during which Bin Laden (Sam Redway) related his life story, right up to the horrific events of 9/11. Bin Laden, or Abu, ‘‘like the monkey in Aladdin’’, as he preferred to be called, shared the relatable milestones in his life: falling in love as a teenager, attending university and starting a family. Then: joining the Resistance against the Soviets in Afghanistan, gaining heroic status and forming Al-Qaeda, hell-bent on bringing down enemy no. 1; The United States of America.
The performance was participatory in nature, in that Abu kicked off by asking us how satisfied we are with our own government- a topic which sparked debate amongst the Colchester crowd! He went on to ask: ‘‘What would you do if Russia invaded Scotland? Would you join the Resistance? How far would you go to protect your British culture? Your children’s future?’’
Don’t be deceived by the promotion poster. There was no attempt to ‘look the part’ of Bin Laden. Redway dressed like you and I; a casual shirt and trousers. His looks weren’t indicative of his ideology, but his words were.
Bin Laden- The One Man Show did everything good theatre should do. Yes it made me laugh and yes it made me shudder. Above all, it made me think. Redway set out to make Bin Laden a sympathetic figure, a task that anyone would casually dismiss as impossible. Yet, upon leaving the Mercury’s auditorium there was something uncomfortable in the air. One might dare to go as far as saying sympathy.
What’s your opinion on theatre that tackles the controversial? What’s the most controversial piece of theatre you’ve seen? Did it provoke you to question yourself? Get in touch with us on Instagram (@unilovers.co.uk) by commenting on our post.