The Nottingham New Theatre is no stranger to the challenge of intense and disturbing subject matter, with successful productions such as The Lesson, Becoming a Jackal, Mercury Fur, and 1984 being just a few examples from recent years. The superb execution and outstanding standard of acting makes the latest UNCUT performance, Osama the Hero, directed by Ben Williamson and produced by Lucy Dollman, one of the strongest performances of its kind that I have seen.
The immersive experience of the show began even before we had reached the performance venue, meeting at the Bag O’ Nails where we were encouraged to have a drink to ready ourselves for the night ahead! We were then led through the roads of Lenton to the ‘secret location’ – an ominous garage in the darkness of a back garden. The night was cold, and expectations were high. There was a nervous energy in the air as the door to the garage was opened and we took our seats.
The bleak and too-cold-for-comfort garage was a perfect setting; however the balloons, fairy lights and bunting were never explained and seemed a little off topic, making me feel they were simply left over from an old student party.
However, these festive decorations contrasted with the bleak garage in a way similar to how the overwhelmingly dark and disturbing play managed to contain moments of great wit and almost charming lines from certain characters. Mark, for example, was a wonderfully complex character played by James McAndrew, who, in some of the darkest moments of the performance, gave the audience moments of comic relief, showing an impressive versatility.
The entire cast delivered equally strong performances and the high standard of acting is what makes this show a must see. Ajay Stevenson’s portrayal of the frustrated and angry Francis had an aggression and a poignancy that gave real depth to the production, and Laura Cremona’s Louise is played with a frightening realism. Lizzie Frainer’s apparent innocence at the beginning of the show, as Mandy, contrasted eerily to her chilling final monologue whilst Dan O’Connor gave an outstanding performance as Gary. His confused, endearing opening monologues had a great sensitivity, and he seemed to have immersed himself psychologically in a role that is both physically and emotionally challenging.
Perhaps because of the fact my feet had begun to go numb, the closing monologues did seem to drag on a little longer than necessary, yet this is a small critique of an otherwise impressive show. It is an entirely different type of theatre experience, and raises thought-provoking questions about the War on Terror and post 9/11 Britain. Although it cannot be described as an ‘enjoyable’ night out at the theatre (or garage), it is certainly not one to be missed.
Osama The Hero will be performed this evening, 18th March 2013, at a secret location in Lenton (meet at the Bag O’ Nails, Lenton Boulevard, at 7.15pm) For ticket information go to: https://www.facebook.com/events/431674146920292/?fref=ts