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Osama the Hero

Published Monday 16 May 2005 at 15:25 by Jeremy Austin

Dennis Kelly’s play focuses on the scared and ignorant people of Daily Mail England, presenting them as a particularly odious breed of celebrity obsessed, intellectually-challenged thugs. A south London estate because a microcosm for the hatred and fear that right-wing scaremongering whips up on a global scale. Bright yet misunderstood teenager Gary, portrayed sensitively and with a natural understanding of comic timing by Tom Brooke, argues that Osama Bin Laden is a hero by definition to some people and that killing 2,000 people is only wrong depending on who the 2,000 people are.

This does not hold well with the ill-educated chavs on his estate. It marks him out as different and therefore responsible for recent arson attacks. Despite lack of evidence, as he lies tortured in a garage, one of his accusers argues: “You don’t need evidence for terrorists.” See where this is going?

Brother and sister tag team Francis and Louise, well cast in Ian Dunn and Rachel Sanders, come to epitomise the ignorant mob rule that saw, in real life, paediatricians confused for paedophiles.

There are faults. What Kelly is trying to say about Michael Mears’ character Mark - a 50-something having an affair with a teenager - is not clear. Why do Francis and Louise only tiptoe around his potential child molesting? His muse Mandy, played by Christine Bottomley, is almost a spare part, flirting with being the audience’s advocate for reason but never quite achieving it.

The structure is interesting. Act I is a highly stylised affair. Gary’s character is wonderfully drawn, appealing to the audience with his good humour, magnifying the tragedy to come. But once again, Mark and Mandy’s mock celebrity interview is confusing. The second act is more literal while the third is a series of monologues, demonstrating somewhat ineffectively the affect of the characters’ actions on their personalities after the event.

Production information

Hampstead Theatre, April 5-June 11

Dennis Kelly
Anthony Clark
Hampstead Theatre
Christine Bottomley, Tom Brooke, Ian Dunn, Michael Mears, Rachel Sanders
Running time:
1hr 30mins

Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.

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Run sheet

King's Head, Islington London
January 24-February 15 2014