Left – Osamah Sami and Rodney Afif. Cover – Osamah Sami, Rodney Afif and Nicole Nabout. Photos – Tim Grey
The travails of the Melbourne immigrant child struggling to make contradictory sense of belonging to clashing cultures is a narrative we have encountered through writers like Christos Tsiolkas many times over. In adding asylum and Islam to this recognisable mix, Good Muslim Boy delivers a topical and very current retelling.
The film, ‘Ali’s Wedding’ was the first adapted outing of Osamah Sami’s award–winning novel, however, this stage version uses events not covered in the cinema and moves things forward a few years.
The emotional heart of the action centres strongly around Osamah’s deeply reverent relationship with his cleric father. Highly respected within the Melbourne Faith community, Osamah’s Dad proudly deflects criticism of his son’s life and creative choices, however, it is some ‘faith incompatible’ pursuits that are seemingly the inspiration behind the clerics decision to take his son on an Iranian odyssey in 2013. When tragedy flips his indifference, Osamah can no longer take for granted the anticipated freedoms and ease he had bestowed upon the passport of his adopted home.
Directed and Co-written by Janice Muller, she articulates in her programme forward the significance of process, endless edits and a realisation that having Osamah 'physically there' is what 'brings such power to the work' and what we have as a result is a play that does feel very personal – because it is.
The depth and nature of the obstacles Osamah must overcome to deal respectfully with unexpected loss is indeed amplified knowing we are watching the man himself retrace his own steps in dramatic form. It is here, however, where theatrical reduction doesn’t quite match the scale of the reality. Massive kudos to set designer Romaine Harper for solving challenges of tram stops, airport lounges, embassy windows and even mortuaries. Busily used throughout, and for all its cleverness, a stage on this minimal scale can’t help but struggle to capture, for example, the atmosphere of a mid-desert bus ambush.
As Osamah navigates his way through the domino like minefield of Iranian bureaucracy, sharply focussed cast members Nicole Nabout and Rodney Afif bring to the Beckett stage a veritable cast of thousands. With little prop or costume aid, this hardworking duo impress as they skilfully populate the stage often with only minor vocal and physical adjustment.
A harrowing journey told with kindness and love, Good Muslim Boy is a solid effort from an energetic cast.
Bringing this complex series of events to the stage is quite an undertaking and one handled relatively well considering the author has had the benefit of using film to previously share parts of this story.
Getting any piece of theatre in front of an audience is the culmination of a million micro miracles and so for this alone, congratulation is due to some very dedicated and creative individuals. There is a worthy story here, and seeing Osamah Sami visibly moved during the bows, honours not just the journey he shares on stage but also the journey to his opening night ovation.
Malthouse Theatre presents
Good Muslim Boy
by Osamah Sami | adapted for the stage by Osamah Sami and Janice Muller
Director Janice Muller
Venue: Beckett Theatre | CUB Malthouse, Sturt St Southbank VIC
Dates: 9 Feb – 4 Mar 2018