Bin Laden: The One Man Show – 'We're still waiting to find someone outside the theatre ready to nut us'
- Gareth K Vile
- 9 April 2018
A challenge to monstrous depictions of former Al Qaeda leader lends itself to reflections on Western complicity
Launching at the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe with a critically acclaimed sell-out run, Bin Laden: The One Man Show has taken Knaive Theatre around the round, even to the USA. Its bold material, however, is paired with a subtle theatricality that, far from re-stating predictable controversies, imagines the Al Qaeda leader as a rounded, and sometimes domestic, person.
Emerging from a conversation about whether it could be possible to present Bin Laden in a positive light, the production manages to address deep political questions without settling on an answer: thanks to the self-conscious casting of Sam Redway, it even studies the nature of white privilege. 'Everywhere, we come across new, interesting responses to this work, and it grows with that understanding,' says director Tyrrell Jones. 'We ask a lot of our audience and for many it's a challenging experience. We're still waiting to find someone outside the theatre ready to nut us but so far that has never happened! People have always respected the conversation we're trying to provoke.'
This respect is partially due to the production's unassuming theatricality, but also the seriousness with which the company deal with Bin Laden's biography. While they acknowledge that it is less controversial in the UK, as post-colonial thought recognises the necessity of challenging imperial complicity in subsequent conflicts, even North American audiences has been positive and engaged. It's a remarkable example of theatre's ability to traverse difficult terrain, and open up an apparently closed subject to nuanced discussion.
Bin Laden: The One Man Show, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Wed 25–Sat 28 Apr