Bin Laden: The One Man Show | Review
By Conor O’Neill
First for me, being served tea and a biscuit before a show. The sole actor Sam Redway asks each and every how they would like it? He must have been doing research as mine was proper tea. Builders’ tea, the tea you could stand on. Belfast tea.
While Mary Poppins theme tune Let’s Go Fly a Kite plays in the background, 100 of us in the MAC start on a journey; not a pretty one, not a comfortable one, yet one that should be taken. An old adage reads ‘never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes’. And here we sat, walking Bin Laden’s trail from the softly spoken son of a billionaire to Mujahideen, AK carrying freedom fighter and suspected ‘mastermind’ behind the twin towers dropping like a house of cards.
The set you could put into the boot of a car: a flip chart; a table; tea in a flask; cups, milk and nothing other than a well-spoken English man. We’re asked a question:“Who here wants to leave the world in a better place for their children?” All hands rise. The shoes come off. “I’m going to show you how to change the world.” The flip chart comes into its own now. Step one: ‘Finding your motivation’. Married at 17 to Najwa, having a child shortly after, Bin Laden has a look at the world around him and finds the motivation. An unlucky lady in the front row is asked: “Will you marry me?” She obviously didn’t read Knaive Theatre’s declamation. Immersive theatre it is indeed.
Let’s do the dance. Like Syria today, a war of proxy between Russia and the USA brings Bin Laden to Afghanistan. Shoes come off. The questions of freedom, civil rights, etc. are dulled by step two: ‘Taking action’: Loyal friends and family; resources; powerful allies. Words and the tone of language change. The word ‘fuck’ is used with compelling thrust.15th February 1989 7am, Russia withdraw from Afghanistan. But there’s a bigger evil to fight. Step three: ‘Learning how to cope with defeat’. Bin Laden sees a religion divided, Sunni and Shia should be brothers and sisters. Far from the truth. Another member of the audience is picked out, Azzam, Bin Laden’s right-hand man is dressed in a turban and every now and again gets whispered to by Redway to deliver the words of Jihad. Once again we’re taken a dander, ‘The biggest Jihad is within’.
Most of us in the West have never seen the Koran never mind read it. Bin Laden could quote every line, verse and chapter. This one-man play will and does want me to get a copy and find out what it’s all about. Step four: ‘Wanting it’. Step five: ‘Risk big, Win big’. Flipchart has all enthralled. Capital letters: Jihad by pen forgotten. Coca-Cola, fridges, son wanting a Western life wife leaves. I didn’t notice but most of the songs have flight or flying involved. Leaving on a Jet Plane and others I won’t say all, you can find out for yourself.Stripped to his boxers, Redway flips the chart. Two iconic towers, flips again, nothing. And after the interval – thankfully Redway in ‘proper’ attire, we’re then led to a combative Q & A session. Co-founder and co-writer, Tyrrell Jones does the most of talking. Everything from Palestine to Russia, Syria, Robin Hood, the right of violence for political gain, liberal ideology, Brexit, shaving to get through checkpoints, Batman, the list goes on. Jones and Redway first started doing this Q & A after the show in pubs: “But we were still chatting at 4 am.” And it could have gone on that way. I see now why they limit the public debate. You should get yourself down to the MAC for the second show. Saturday 21 April, 8pm.
For booking details visit www.themaclive.com or phone the box office 02890 235053