Monday, 31 July 2017

Osama Bin Dramaturgy: Knaive Theatre @ Edfringe 2017

Explosive Osama Bin Laden Show Returns To Edinburgh Fresh From US Tour
“Tonight, ladies and gentlemen,
I am going to show you how to change the world”

BIN LADEN: THE ONE MAN SHOW returns to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival from 2nd-28th August at C (Venue 34).
The world’s most notorious terrorist tells his story in BIN LADEN: THE ONE MAN SHOW a remarkable, provocative and multi-award-winning production from Knaïve Theatre

The twist? Bin Laden is 28 years old, White British and charming as cream teas in summer. After a critically acclaimed and highly successful American Tour, this ‘must-see’ production returns to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where it originally premiered, from 2nd-28th August before beginning a UK tour that includes The Royal Exchange Theatre, The Sherman and The New Wolsey.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

We don’t want to give away too much of the show, but what we can say is that we believe that the best theatre tries to understand the world, and even the most terrible actions within it. A quest for understanding was the starting point for this show.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

We hope so! In our experience audiences are becoming more and more eager to see work that provokes them to discussion. Theatrical performance can – like very little else - combine the messy and personal with the universal and academic, the imaginative with the factual; and immerse you in a dialectic world of ideas, images and stories and confront you with things you might have never wanted to consider before. That, to us, provides very fertile ground for the public discussion of ideas – particularly ideas we might rather not discuss.

How did you become interested in making performance?

We were both engaged with performance making from a frighteningly young age. At age 3 Sam (the actor) spent whole days as his female alter-ego, Madam (complete with pearl necklaces and red leather handbags). He would also put on strange musical comedies with his two older brothers for their parents’ “benefit” which mostly involved Sam flinging himself about the living room trying to catch an imaginary cow and milk it. 

Tyrrell (the director) spent his early years refusing to wear anything but his Thunderbird Two costume and spent his university days (while apparently studying politics) refusing to do anything but theatre. We met in 2012 working for the Barbican Theatre in Plymouth and began making theatre together in 2013 with this show!

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

This show came about through heartbreak, particularly awful accommodation in London and a lot of rum – a long story we will happily tell when asked! It was made through 3 months of intensive research, reading and watching everything we could lay our hands on related to Bin Laden. 

Then we locked ourselves away in various parts of the world (to stave off insanity) and experimented with the source material, wrote, improvised, invited some people to impart some thoughts with us and eventually we had something looking like a show and opened it – terrified – at the Buxton Fringe. Since then we have rewritten, developed and taken further risks every time we have taken the show out. So not a particular approach, more a desire to provoke the most exciting debate we can with the extraordinary story of this man.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

We haven’t yet tied ourselves to an approach as a theatre company. We try to let the form be governed by how best to communicate the content of the piece. We have, since Bin Laden made immersive games-based theatre (Power To The North), a Dance-Theatre adaptations of Baal with Impermanence Dance Theatre, Public Understanding of Science Theatre (Pain, The Brain & A Little Bit of Magic) and we are currently working on an adaptation of 1936 apocalyptic Sci-Fi novel, War With The Newts, with writer Tim Foley. 

Although in form our work is broad, we have a very focussed intention which unifies all of the work we have created so far: to create dangerous theatre which engages and empowers audiences into vibrant discussions around the political dialectics of our time. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

The audience will experience, not just watch, an incredible story and a world-changing journey. We hope they will experience, as we have done, something that will change the way they view the world, perhaps in some small but very real way. 

We hope they will experience something they never expected. But mostly, we hope they experience an unforgettable evening that lasts far longer than the Edinburgh hour; long into the night with fellow audience members, and long into their lives as they share their experience with others.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

Let’s just say that we did a lot of research into American self-help culture…but what that means, you’ll have to come see to find out. The audience experience is still evolving, in front of our very eyes. The more we have performed the show (the 28th August is our 100th performance) the more we have realised that the audience experience is key to the success of the show. 

So we have crafted and honed that experience over 4 years, and it is still growing. Every time we tour the show we challenge our assumptions about the last time and challenge ourselves to see if we can go further.

With populist rhetoric playing an ever-increasing role in Western politics, Knaïve Theatre’s Tyrrell Jones and Sam Redway pry apart what it is that draws us to follow demagogues, asking if the world’s most wanted terrorist might have been more persuasive than we ever imagined. They ask audiences to re-examine their own information and prejudices from a naïve perspective, just as the company have.

The award-winning hit of the fringes in San Diego and Hollywood, Bin Laden returned home to perform a sell-out show at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. Knaïve Theatre are now Supported Artists at the Exchange and have redeveloped the show with the help of the theatre’s creative team ready for a return to Edinburgh before the company’s first national tour.

Having provoked important and timely debate surrounding Middle East conflict and the War On Terror internationally, they will now bring that discussion to a national audience. Though they expected this story would become less relevant, current global tensions and recent events have galvanised an ever-increasing appetite for the debate they inspire.

Bin Laden was made in 2013 on a shoestring by Tyrrell Jones and Sam Redway. After previews in Buxton and London, it opened at Edinburgh and the show was awarded the first Broadway Bobby of 2013. It was in The List’s Top 5 Theatre Shows To See and received a host of first-rate reviews. Quickly, the show started selling out, and before long it was a hit. With the success of Edinburgh 2013 behind them, Tyrrell and Sam undertook formal training (Birkbeck MFA in Directing and RADA MA Theatre Lab respectively). They then redeveloped and toured the show, this time around USA with Arts Council AIDF funding.


Encore! Producer’s Award – Hollywood Fringe Festival 2016
Critic’s Pick Of The Fringe Award – Hollywood Fringe Festival 2016
Outstanding Actor in a Drama – San Diego International Fringe Festival 2016
Gold Award – Tvolution Los Angeles 2016
Broadway Bobby (Sixth Star) – Broadway Baby, Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013
Top 5 Shows at the Fringe ­– The List, Edinburgh 2013

Venue: C, Adam House, Chambers Street, EH1 1HR, venue 34, Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Dates: 2-28 Aug (not 15)
Time: 18:30 (1h00)
Ticket prices: £9.50-£11.50 / concessions £7.50-£9.50 / under 18s £5.50-£7.50
Fringe box office: or 0131 226 0000 

Full Tour Dates:
2nd – 28th August – C Venues, Edinburgh Fringe Festival
5th- 7th September – Royal Exchange Theatre
21st September – Square Chapel, Halifax
28th September – New Wolsey, Ipswich
5th October – CAST, Doncaster
19th- 20th October – Sherman, Cardiff
24th- 28th October – Bike Shed, Exeter
3rd November – Litchfield Garrick

9th- 11th November – Mercury, Colchester

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