SINCE ALI DIED – Image Credit: Robert Catto

On waves of enjoyment the highly entertained audience responds and relates to Omar Musa during his show SINCE ALI DIED.  His gift as a performer is to put people at ease, to allow an audience a space in which to understand and empathise and to feel comfortable to respectfully disagree if required.  But if we have all been down to the servo on a hot day or done a bomb off the 3 metre board, each of us who meet in this space have arrived by different paths.  His path is what he shares in his exciting and engaging show, a crafted show with the power to gently educate without rancour or aggro.

Using poetry, first and third person storytelling and songs Musa will give an insight into growing up as a brown boy in Queanbeyan … his poetic homage to the river absolutely delightful.   Lyrical and warm yet beautifully expressed with a sadness for its loss of greatness.  For, this is a boy who understands greatness.  His idol is a black man who speaks his mind, who speaks of achieving and who was once lyrical and floating.  It’s an honest love as Musa bookends his work  in a Styxian boat speaking to The Greatest.

And who can’t relate to a man in love?  Many of his experiences will strike a chord but when Musa falls in romantic love for the first time, it is universal, human and relatable.  A bit self-deprecating as this is a girl deeply unsure of him! The characters who, through extremely well edited scripting, populate the stage with him are well chosen to make his journey clear, his influences extant and his opinions available.  He also asks questions that we have all asked of ourselves, of our society and of our spiritual or moral teachers.

Sometimes with direct eye contact, sometimes with a lightly theatrical physicality, look for the shark fin, Musa’s words, rapped, spoken or recorded are designed for listening.  He has a genuineness about him, a charm of honest smile, an evident joy in sharing … “Fuck, that’s a good line!”

His sharp wit makes his point easily and director Anthea Williams has guided the dramatic, the emotional and the comic firmly to allow Musa’s work to maintain momentum.  His rapping is high energy, rhythmic and pulsing in places; the storytelling has an internal rhythm and the music and poetry uses reprises and repeats to considerable effect.  The show is aided by some exceptional audio operation and track mastering.  When guest vocalist Sarah Corry brings her unique voice to the stage, the blending is extremely good and the use of echo and juxtaposition of live and recorded gives the show a dynamic register.

SINCE ALI DIED is a thoroughly vibrant work from an energetic and skilled wordsmith.  I found it intimate and public, profound and occasionally troubling, funny and moving, with an ebb and flow to embrace the universality of experience which binds us.

SINCE ALI DIED is playing at two locations.  The Darlinghurst season at Griffin Theatre Company until Jan 19 and the Parramatta season at Riverside Theatres 22-25 Jan.

All things Sydney Festival:
Sydney Festival Website and Digital Program
Sydney Festival 19 Teaser Video