Finding Bin Laden
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2003
Chasing the CIA's $25million for caputuring Bin Laden, an Afghan war reporter uncovers murder, ghosts and espionage.
Whatever your expectations of Finding Bin Laden, Henry Naylor's script is almost certain to confound them.
Set against the liberation of Kabul, this is a satirical farce with a grisly edge and a thought-provoking conclusion.
As the American military put a $25million price on the head of the Al Qaeda mastermind, the opportunistic crooks of Afghanistan get to work aided, unwittingly at first, by the Western press.
Dave Lamb is brilliant as the frontline reporter who seeks the exclusive ahead of the truth, played with underplayed frustration and world-weary wit, while his half-Afghan camera operator Azadine (Nina Conti) provides the play's narrative - and the conscience.
In the course of their work, they encounter shady, Archers-obsessed local Raheem (a fine performance from Paul Chowdhry) and the unquestioningly "patriotic" US soldier Chester Holmes (a faultless Will Kenning) who is furious that the un-embedded reporters won't toe the official military line.
On paper, this sounds a little dull and worthy, but it turns out to be very funny indeed -and not just the gallows humour you'd expect from such a desperate situation, but also stupidly funny exchanges.
But as the play nears the end, the mood changes, first to the uneasy, then to the deadly serious as the consequences of playing fast and loose with truth and lives comes to an unexpected head. What seemed like a joke at first, has heavy ramifications.
The message Naylor conveys can sometimes come across as naïve - especially the juxtaposition of tablois headlines of inconsequential celebrity with hard-hitting pictures from Afghanistan - and the motives of the characters, especially Lamb's, can shift to fit the point.
But these are minor quibbles. This is a thoroughly absorbing, often hilarious, and well-put-together piece with something vital to say.
Sam Maynard's photographs in the café outside - and online - add another level of poignancy to an already multi-layered play.