Before we even enter the theatre, we are asked, as an audience, to do so with an open mind and a willingness to listen. I was happy to do both.

We were greeted by the actor himself and were drawn to him by his easy-going, genial personality. We warmed to him even before he had actually done anything onstage.

After a few short questions thrown to the audience, mostly about politics, and to which the audience readily reacted, the debate had already begun and would continue on after the show for those who wished to stay.

Even though no one could look less like Osama Bin Laden than fair-haired, rosy-cheeked Englishman Sam Redway, he convinces us that he has got into the mind of a man we have all come to know as the world’s worst terrorist simply by his superb acting skills and the fervour of his interpretation. And he does it without the use of makeup, and just the minimal use of costumes and props.

When he needs to introduce other characters into the action, he recruits members of the audience to join him onstage to play those parts. They are either given a written script to read, or he whispers the lines to that person as he goes along. This ingenious and clever ploy works surprisingly well.

Although this is a very provocative portrayal of bin Laden, there is no gratuitous violence, no graphic imagery, and no terrifying re-enactment of terrorist acts. Instead, these are referred to as the actor traces Bin Laden’s fight for freedom, from peace-loving worshipper of Islam, to America’s most wanted terrorist and architect of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre. With the use of “flip charts,” he introduces each different aspect of the story as if to cement these important points he is making permanently into our minds.

The performance is part motivational address, part history lecture and part flashes of gripping theatre with a little bit of ‘stand up’ comedy thrown in. And his interaction with a very receptive audience certainly evoked a lot of keen interest as well as a lot of laughs.

Thoroughly researched and well constructed, the script is riveting and engrossing, but when the going gets too heavy, Redway evokes a laugh line to break the tension. And he can ‘’ad lib’’ with the best of them, never missing an opportunity to use this strategy to his advantage.

Redway’s perfect, crystal clear diction and enunciation of a very fast-paced script was a joy to listen to, both when he was acting and when he was speaking off-the-cuff as himself.

More than anything, I left the theatre thinking, “Well, that puts a different perspective on what I, and I’m sure many others, thought of this man Bin Laden.” I feel sure this was the object of the exercise.

The world should never be allowed to forget the worst act of terrorism in modern times. Thanks in part due to this production, I’m sure we never will.

Presented by the Seymour Centre and Knaive Theatre, BIN LADEN : THE ONE MAN SHOW is playing at the Reginald Theatre at the Seymour Centre until Saturday 6th April, 2019.

By Ken Coleman

50 years ago the original Sydney production of “Hair” blew me away. Since then, many profound experiences in the magic realm of theatre, provocatively moved me and tantalizingly informed my unfolding bewilderment at the human condition.

The miracle is that, having been thrown into the insufferable abyss by works like “King Lear”, “Othello” and “Hamlet”, I come away each time neither numbed to the bone nor crushed to the core. I leave with an almost inexplicable, ineffable after-glow, vivified by a renewed, deepened sense of the broken but living consonance of humankind, despite its rude clamouring toward death.BIN LADEN : THE ONE MAN SHOW sensationally matches, in its own distinctive, unique way, the mind-blowing, unsparingly profound magic with which the 1969 production of “Hair” haunts me with vivid awe to this day. Just as “Hair” seduced me to see anew, “Bin Laden” beguiles me to reassess everything.

Incredibly, I come away neither diminished nor embittered, but with an expanded, incandescent sense of hope and an enlivened faith in courage and love. Having been tossed into the jagged-most crevices of the human soul, all that is dear to me emerges all the more precious, simply because brave empathy outstares the inadmissible truths that elicit the human tragedy, and which this seminal show nakedly illumines.

BIN LADEN : THE ONE MAN SHOW was masterfully written by Tyrell Jones and Sam Redway after immersing themselves in the detailed US Congressional report on 9/11; the exhaustive CIA reports on and transcripts of Bin Laden; Bin Laden’s immediate family’s intimate recollections; recordings of his speeches and statements; as well as a plethora of books and publications on the man and his world.

Tyrell Jones sensitively directed Sam Redway’s engrossing performance as Osama Bin Laden.

Both director and performer hosted an enlightening and frank question and answer with the audience after the show on 5 April.

BIN LADEN : THE ONE MAN  SHOW is playing at the Seymour Centre until 6 April.                  

by Eric Shumsky