When flicking through the Fringe programme, Bin Laden: The One Man Show is almost the clickbait of the festival. A title so absurdly ludicrous it demands viewing. You’d be forgiven for assuming BL: TOMS would consist of ridiculous fake beards and dodgy accents, however this couldn’t be further from the truth. I enter and I am offered a cup of tea and a biscuit which, of course, I accept. The subversion of expectations is so severe that the patron to my left leans in and whispers ‘This is that Bin Laden show, right?’. It was. But there wasn’t a fake beard in sight.
On the contrary, what we are presented with is an hour-long explanation of Bin Laden’s life from a peculiarly relatable standpoint. Solo performer, Sam Redway, embodies the infamous figure and leads us, the audience, through his life step-by-step from childhood through to 9/11. Each logical leap is emotionally justified, each decision made human, each moment made relatable. The product is a show which appears neither pro- nor anti-Bin Laden, but simply one which presents his life from an objective standpoint and leaves you to make your own judgement on the man. According to Redway, the show was made to ‘provoke discussion’, and it certainly achieved that, with debates breaking out before the theatre was even empty.
‘There wasn’t a fake beard in sight’
However, the key achievement for Bin Laden: The One Man Show is that it is simply really, really good. Redway commands the stage under Tyrell Jones’ direction. Constantly and bravely retaining eye contact with the audience, he skilfully holds them in the palm of his hand through every development. The script, meanwhile, is supremely entertaining, frequently funny and ultimately, very affecting. Hours later I still find myself pondering the issues raised. Very few shows will make you think quite as much as this one. Throw some crisp lighting and sound into the mix and an all-round impressive production remains.
One man shows don’t get much better than this. Go for the fun title, stay for the quality theatre. This is what the Edinburgh Fringe was made for: off-the-wall, thought provoking shows.
C Venues, 2nd – 28th August (not 15th) 18:30
Image: Kevin Charles Patterson