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Good Muslim Boy

Raphael Solarsh

Drama, laughter and perhaps a strange symmetry between worlds and people who at first seem so far apart.
Good Muslim Boy

From Melbourne’s infamous Revolver Nightclub to the ninth-century shrine of Imam Reza in northern Iran is a long bow to draw. For anyone who has experienced the former, the name of the latter alone should suggest that the two are separated by more than mere miles. The kind of distance that separates them does not necessarily require such absolute contrast to be felt. Sometimes even family, when they are sitting across from you, can feel foreign, distant and utterly disconnected. And in the end, it is this story of family, that Good Muslim Boy tells with warmth, humour and wisdom.

Osamah is an actor keen to show, on stage and off, the distance he has created between himself and the pious life of his cleric father. Osamah is a child of Australia, his new home, but it is his father who holds on to both parts of his life and self with a surety and joy that Osamah cannot find in either. Seeing his son struggling to find balance in his life, Osamah’s father convinces his son to join him on a pilgrimage to a holy site in Iran. The tension between them strains but never breaks their bond until his father's sudden death leaves Osamah to navigate the hostile civil and religious bureaucracy of Iran in order to bring his body back to their new home.

All that was left unsaid to his father and unresolved in himself plays out as Osamah races the clock on his visa to complete his mission. He is treated as a foreigner by a system he rejects and bucks the rules of a society he disowns but cannot escape. But amongst the ambivalent, sometimes hostile bureaucrats, he finds people to help him, just often enough to keep moving. A local cleric protects him from the police, a security guard opens doors to those with the influence to overcome inertia and Kurdish gangsters have his back. Eventually, with nothing left to lose, Osamah has to decide whether or not to draw on his father’s faith.

Good Muslim Boy stakes out ground between two worlds and plants itself resolutely with feet on both sides. The theatrical adaptation teases out stereotypes of first generation immigrants with care and humour that never strays into one-dimensional or cliched characterisation. It casts a unique perspective on the conflicts and challenges of forging a new life, on the space that opens up in communities and in families and how that space can be held with love and acceptance. This is a brilliantly constructed production and compellingly performed, filled with drama, laughter and perhaps a strange symmetry between worlds and people who at first seem so far apart.

 4 ½ out 5 stars

Good Muslim Boy
By Osamah Sami
Adapted for the stage by Osamah Sami and Janice Muller
Direction: Janice Muller          
Set & Costume Design: Romanie Harper
Lighting Design: Ben Hughes
Sound Design & Composition: Phil Slade
Cast: Rodney Afif, Nicole Nabout, Osamah Sami

The Malthouse Theatre, Southbank
9 February – 11 March 2018

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Raphael Solarsh is writer from Melbourne whose work has appeared in The Guardian, on Writer’s Bloc and in a collection of short stories entitled Outliers: Stories of Searching. When not seeing shows, he writes fiction and blogs at raphaelsolarsh.com and tweets @RS_IndiLit.

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