Osama the Hero, presented by LaMama and performed by The Rabble, is a play about the effects of terror on civil life. Set in a stylised housing estate, the play explores the real-life implications of engendering a fundamentalist revenge culture.
A number of coincidences involving explosions, a high school boy searching to define himself, the complex legacy of childhood abuse, and the neediness of adults and children to belong to a group are all aspects of life colliding here in violence and misplaced, wilful revenge.
Directed by Syd Brisbane, and written by English playwright Dennis Kelley in 2005, Osama the Hero is an ambitious and deliberately provocative production from a new theatre company. The cast is generally effective with Kevin Hopkins (Mark) and Hannah Norris (Louise) the standout performers. Hopkins in particular shows great skill for understanding and delivering the rhythm of the play and is always a compelling presence on stage. This is a play attempting to utilise the rhythm of language to theatrical effect, but not all the performers seem up to the task, and it appears at times awkward.
The art of stage design is frequently, it seems to me, being ignored by lower budget productions but it is certainly not ignored by this one. Designer Kate Davies transforms the Courthouse space into a stylised and surprising vision. Dominated by a limited palate of whites, beige and grey, Davies achieves a thought provoking, bold and useable set. Tommy Spender’s moody sound is also a highpoint.
Osama the Hero is, in this production, an attempt to explore the theme of the ends justifying the means, and visa-versa. Unfortunately, I think in endeavouring to render the play’s themes symbolically there has been an over-reliance on clichéd representation. The resulting clumsiness serves to undermine some of the depth of meaning this production is attempting to represent. This is a shame, as clearly The Rabble is aspiring to create genuinely provocative and consequential theatre. But perhaps the play itself is lacking in depth, or a little dated already?
This is an entertaining, energetic production with admirable aspirations. The varying emotional moods of the play are well handled by the entire cast, which includes Xavier Samuel, Thomas Wright and Jessie Beck. That is, at times Osama the Hero is very funny, and then it drops into terrible tragedy and right back out again. It is a challenge well met.
Overwhelmingly though, it is simply a pleasure to see a thoughtful approach to modern-themed theatre.
The Rabble present
OSAMA THE HERO
By Dennis Kelly
La Mama at the Carlton Courthouse, 349 Drummond Street, Carlton
June 21 – July 7, 2007
Tues, Wed and Sun @ 6.30pm, Thurs to Sat @ 8.00pm
75 minutes approx
03 9347 6142