Note: Theatre Now’s creator and editor Lynden Jones was involved in this production playing Mark.
When Dennis Kelly’s provocatively titled play first opened in London in 2005, police were stationed at every door of the Hampstead Theatre. Fear was rife, tensions were high, and any little thing could spark an explosion.
Now, more than ten years later, the climate of fear remains. In fact, given very recent and terrifying events, it might even be worse. If this play was called Trump the Hero it would have the same devastating impact.
It is set in a council housing estate somewhere in the pits of London. We meet Gary (Joshua McElroy) who has upset his neighbours a little. He’s been asked to give a presentation for school on someone he admires, a international icon. Nelson Mandela or Winston Churchill might be obvious choices. Even David Attenborough.
But Gary chooses Osama Bin Laden, and thus sparks of fear begin to ignite and spread throughout the community. Siblings Francis (Tel Benjamin) and Louise (Nicole Wineberg) have a dysfunctional, vitriolic relationship anyway, and this just adds fuel to their fire. Mark (Lynden Jones) is suspected of being a paedophile, and is easily influenced by the siblings to take action when his garage is blown up. They find Gary, tie him to a chair and interrogate him.
As the title might indicate, this play isn’t actually about Osama Bin Laden at all. Kelly’s play is about fear: about the fascination with it; its manifestation; about its effects and its results.
The tiny space of the Kings Cross Theatre means there is no escaping the brutality that Director Richard Hilliar has pinpointed with such accuracy. His actors manifest an environment palpable with fear, tension and uncontrollable violence. It’s hideous to experience.
Performances across the board are intense and compelling, but there is a distinct lack in specificity and accuracy with accents, which is unfortunately very distracting.
As Francis, Benjamin seems to have the best handle on the dialect, and he shines as a result. His performance is easy, and he brings a wonderful authenticity to his role. Jones, as Mark, gives a very real representation of someone easily infected by fear and fearmongering. We all know those people, and perhaps may have even felt the powerlessness ourselves when we’re up against the majority. He’s also very funny talking to the ‘media’ with Mandy (Poppy Lynch). The two are a ridiculous pair of preened presenters, and provide a lot of laughs.
This production of Osama the Hero doesn’t shy away from the violence written by Kelly, but nor does it glorify it either. Hilliard has made sure of that. It’s an honest, chilling examination of the fear mentality, and a very real warning against it. Does the end justify the means? This production will certainly leave you thinking.
Playing at the Kings Cross Hotel until February 4.
Alana Kaye – Theatre Now & Talking Arts