Arts Review: Osama the Hero

Dir. Erfan Shojanoori, Artists in Arches, 22nd – 24th November

After putting on four pairs of trousers, four jumpers and my hat down to my eyes, I felt ready to go see Broken Mirror Theatre’s production of Dennis Kelly’s Osama the Hero, performed at one of the arches under a bridge. It was already dark when the audience started flowing into the space and sat down on wooden pallets, their backs against the stiff grindstones. As I arranged my blanket around my knees and the cold faded into the background, I started becoming more aware of the venue. Unusual, to say the least, but one that the performance made incredibly good use of.

The portable lights used to illuminate the space were always perfectly positioned and created an array of different effects; such as projecting distorted shadows of actors on the wall or hiding a character in a circle of darkness as the light beams faced outwards to illuminate the other protagonists and the audience, resulting in a striking atmosphere throughout. Very effective also was the forced migration of the audience to another space further into the arch for the second part of the play, as the setting changed to the more violent scene of the torture of young Gary (Robert Turner) after his presentation of Osama as a hero.

While the first and third part of the play, centred on characters paired or on their own, worked very well, the second part was more hit-and-miss. The staging was once again very successful, as Gary’s severe beating with a hammer happened just far enough from the audience to convey the appropriate violence without it looking staged. However, some of the dialogue was quite difficult to follow, with a significant amount of repetitions that sounded forced and dissonant. This unnecessarily elongated a scene which became increasingly intense and ended with great performances from Robert Turner portraying terror remarkably well, Carys Williams (as Louise), losing it completely, and Kaia Jones (as Mandy), heart-wrenchingly attempting to wake her dead classmate. I am unable to determine whether this initial lack of energy stemmed from the script or its interpretation, but the rest of the production fortunately made up for it completely.

Overall, it was a very unique and original interpretation of Kelly’s text, in which the focus on the seen and the unseen was particularly memorable. I’m looking forward to more productions by this exciting Glasgow-based theatre company.

[Isabelle Ribe]

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