The provocatively titled OSAMA THE HERO by Dennis Kelly is an examination of the hothouse hysteria that the West has been laden with due to the twin towers of terrorism and trepidation.
Asked to present a school project on an inspirational character, nerdy Gary chooses Osama bin Laden as his subject. After all, Gary argues, Osama inspired manifold minions by giving up his manifold millions to live in a cave and lead a jihad, fighting on the frontline. Poor taste compounded by paranoia makes poor Gary a pariah. And when a garage explodes, he is thrown on the pariah heap, a pyre built of perverts and paedophiles.
The garage is owned by middle aged Mark, who, with teenage Mandy live out a weird, talk show host inspired, white picket fence American Dream scenario before a video camera, dressed in virginal white and sporting white wigs. They allude to a progeny called Armistice but coitus seems never to have occurred. So Armistice is a sort of American virgin birth.
Mark waxes “romantic”, Mandy cries “creep”. She consents for him to touch her hair and he proceeds to cop a feel.
Across the road, the perverts are being perved upon by Francis and his sister, Louise. There’s seems to be a sado-masochistic relationship with a whiff of incest. Part of their bonding back story concerns the brother’s Staffy mauling his sister and their dad dismembering the dis-tempered dog before their eyes. She still bears the physical scars and the emotional ones are still manifest.
After Mark’s garage is bombed, Gary is taken prisoner by Francis and tortured by the kinky quartet, cruelly depicting the current climate of global warning: dissent is suspect, nonconformity dangerous.
Over written to the point of verbiage dulling the cut and thrust of its sharp narrative, director Richard Hilliar nevertheless delivers a strong and engaging production, utilising practical light like torch beam, a swinging naked bulb and portable work lights to create an atmosphere of interrogatory fear. There’s good use of practical sound too, including hypnotic repetitive chant.
The balance of fever pitch hysteria becomes perilously fragile under the frenzy, but despite these flaws, the play has claws, giving us pause as it poses questions about mob rule and guilt by suspicion.
There are committed and sterling performances from the quintet cast. Joshua McElroy is the measure of the piteously guileless Gary. Tel Benjamin as the rage-filled Francis, courses and pulses through the narrative like an electric eel in a goldfish bowl.
Nicole Wineberg is riveting as the bullied, rabid Louise, nailing her alpha ascension from down trodden to upper hand with hammer blow accuracy.
Poppy Lynch is wickedly fey as the ingenue Mandy, playing an astute obtuse and Lynden Jones is in fine fettle as the food fetishist paedophile, Mark, whose penchant for pubescent sugar and spice, and his yen for Japanese grain, constitutes a recipe for Mandy – rice gravy!
As Kelly has Mandy say at the end of the play, “There are no grown ups here, only us.”
A Tooth and Sinew production in association with Bakehouse Theatre Company, Dennis Kelly’s OSAMA THE HERO is playing the Kings Cross Theatre, Level 2, Kings Cross Hotel, 244-248 William Street, Kings Cross.