GOOD MUSLIM BOY
by Osamah Sami
adapted for the stage by Osamah Sami & Janice Muller
 
Based on the memoir 'Good Muslim Boy' by Osamah Sami (Winner NSW Premier's Literary Award)
Direction: Janice Muller
Set & Costume design: Romanie Harper
Lighting design: Ben Hughes
Sound design: Phil Spade 
with Rodney Afif, Nicole Nabout & Osamah Sami
(Rodney Afif nominated for Green Room Award)
Malthouse Theatre
9 Feb -11 March 2018
Queensland Theatre
July 2018

GOOD MUSLIM BOY REVIEW

****

Reviewed by Cameron Woodward

The Age, Feb 15 2018

Adapting Osamah Sami​'s prize-winning memoir Good Muslim Boy to the stage was always going to be a challenge. The Iraqi-Australian actor, comedian and writer is only 34, but his life contains enough dramatic incidents for an epic cycle of plays.

The stage show fillets the book with swift and free-wheeling flair. It does sacrifice cards from the full deck of humour and horror this natural raconteur has in hand, but retains the wildness and poignancy, the barrelling cross-cultural comedy and tragic ambit, of a coming-of-age story like no other.

Performed by three actors – Sami as himself, with Rodney Afif and Nicole Nabout playing all other characters – the play focuses on the hair-raising tale of how, on a bonding trip to Iran with his father, Sami's dad dies suddenly in their hotel room. Amid shock and grief, Sami embarks on a desperate quest to return his dad's body to Australia for burial.

It's a hell of a story, packed with colour and absurdity, as Sami navigates encounters with scammers and Samaritans, drug-dealing taxi drivers and cold-eyed bureaucrats, with the clock ticking down on his visa all the while.

The adventure unfolds in brief, rapid-fire scenes, girded by a warm portrayal of moments in the life of a refugee family.

There's the hilarity of Sami's mother shrieking with delight at an AFL match on telly, for instance, or the bafflement of a young Osamah getting the wrong side of the stick when the subtleties of the elaborate Persian courtesy known as taarof (ritual shows of humility where can "no" means "yes, if you ask again") come face to face with Aussie directness.

Sami's scenes with his dad (Afif) carry the large emotional weight lightly, setting up the son's transformation from a feckless youth who takes ironic selfies of wisdom and cultural tradition – as if he were a tourist to one side of his own heritage – into a man who, after a trial by fire, inherits the best of his dad's approach to the world.

Simple but versatile set and lighting help to refresh each scene and provide a maze-like ambience to the action, and Janice Muller's direction is solid. Sami's natural comic presence and emotive range thrive in his own story, and if the cameos aren't always sketched with clarity and force, some are fabulous, and there's such a flood of them you can't help but admire the actors' versatility.

Funny and furious, moving and sad and wise, Good Muslim Boy is powerful autobiographical theatre that will leave you with a rich taste of how broad a mosque Islam really is.

**** The Age "A dramatic coming-of-age story unlike any other"

Photography: Tim Grey