[author-post-rating] (1/5 Stars)
Bin Laden: The One Man Show will not be playing Broadway anytime soon, not least because Broadway is in New York, and a play from the perspective of the man who masterminded the 11 September attacks would go down worse there than a 1980s Top Of The Pops 2 rerun being played in the children’s ward of Stoke Mandeville Hospital. That was a tasteless joke, included only to illustrate that I do not slam this show for its bad taste, but on the grounds that it is really boring.
Billed as an attempt to “tell Bin Laden’s story”, the show is structured like a pyramid-selling meeting (there is even tea at the beginning!), except rather than a man with a flip-pad presentation trying to shift a boxes of cheap cleaning-products to fools, there is a man with a flip-pad presentation purporting to be flogging a blue-sky-thinking book on how to change the world. Eh, and the man is pretending to be Bin Laden.
If the aim of a show was to make the audience feel awkward, then Toby Tyrrell Jones and Sam Redway have succeeded. Or they would have, had the initial awkwardness not quickly given way to boredom after watching Redway run around with a toy gun pretending to fight invisible Russians for minutes upon minutes. Even the twin towers’ bombing, presumably the show’s intended climax, provoked no stir from the dormant crowd. Weirdly, the show reduced its exposition of the attack to a sheet of paper on the flip-board with two vertical bars scrawled on in red Sharpie. It almost seemed as though the creators had tried to avoid causing offence by any means necessary, which almost seems cowardly considering the provocative subject matter.
To its credit, parts do sort of feel as though they have been ripped from Bin Laden’s diary, which I suppose was the aim, except that in reality Bin Laden’s diary is probably funnier.
The monologue is laden (ha) with Western imagery (Batman, Star Wars, etc) which, if I was to generously give this show the benefit of the doubt, I might have said were supposed to be satirical humour. However, given that the show contained all of two jokes – one a joke about Bin Laden’s three-inch floppy-disk, the other an “if at first you don’t succeed” variation about shooting down helicopters – I would hesitate to flatter it with as much. The audience-interaction is unimaginative, calling volunteers simply to stand up and recite what they are told to. ‘Bin Laden’ doesn’t even don a costume until 45 agonising minutes in.
As in pyramid-selling, there are a series of “steps” which Bin Laden talks us through, including “Coping With Defeat” and “Risk Big Win Big”. The former is a step that this show should probably revisit. At the end, Redway explains that the show was an experimental venture and welcomed discussion afterwards in the bar (which I actually would have liked to attend, although I was unable), however I would recommend that the creators leave this show at the Fringe.
Bin Laden: One Man Show is playing until 26 August. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.