Good Muslim Boy is a witty piece which navigates the trials of family life and the coming to terms with grief. It is play featuring only three actors who have strong skills but more importantly, heart. This is a stage adaptation of the prize-winning memoir of the same name written by Osamah Sami. He and his co-writer Janice Muller succeed in bringing the essence of the memoir to the stage. It has incredibly touching moments, fast paced dialogue, highly dramatic incidents and well-crafted moments of tension.
Sami is joined on stage with two other performers to assist in bringing his autobiographical piece to the stage. Rodney Afif and Nicole Nabout play all manner of characters from Sami’s parents to miserable passport control officers.
Sami has the charm, acting skills and the emotional drive to take the audience with him as he tells the story of his father their relationship. Sami has really carved a career as a comedian and writer and at the age of only 34, and he has much to explore with his audience.
The tale begins with Sami’s father convincing Sami to go on a bonding holiday with him to Iran. His father (Afif) plays a strong, principled man with a good sense of fun and awareness of the human condition.
One particularly poignant moment is when Sami observes his father go into action by helping, without embarrassing him, a less fortunate father who does not have quite enough money to feed his children as they queue in front of a kebab van. His act of cleverness and kindness towards to the man illustrates his deep regard for the plight of others. He is well aware of this son, Sami’s, difficulties in life which was the impetus for him to organise the trip in the first place. Sami is estranged from his wife and is gloomy about the state of his career.
But tragedy strikes when Sami finds his father dead in the hotel room just as they were settling into the holiday together. The tale then revolves around his quest to have the body repatriated to Australia. We are served an array of vignettes that show the chaos of life and how frustrating the bureaucracy of the Middle East is, but overall it is Sami’s persistence and love for his father that becomes so evident. The revelation for Sami that the bond between father and son is so strong and important is carried through the play. Amid the chaos and disappointment of life, this amusing and sad piece subtly brings home to the audience that familial bonds are to be cherished.
It is in no way a sentimental piece. It is harsh, loud and colourful. The array of characters that propel Sami’s story along range from gun wielding guards, unfeeling passport officers, drug-addled taxi drivers and devious money-makers who all help to transform Sami into a stronger man with a larger heart and better appreciation of his world.
Janice Muller’s direction and Ben Hughes’ lighting design is simple and effective. On solitary set is used and it stands within the Beckett Theatre space looking like one large tram stop. This set is transformed into many scenes through the lighting design and this enables the tale to move fast. The gloom and the trepidation towards life that Sami earlier on in the play is mirrored in the colour of the set – the colour blue and grey features in the costumes and is complemented by the middle eastern looking tiled floor.
It is always fascinating to watch a person come to terms with their cultural identity and sad to witness people being dealt an awful hand because of their appearance. In Iran, Sami was not Australian. In Australia, he is regarded as that Good Muslim Boy. As an audience member you are served a real insight into ethnicity. This is the kind of story we need to see; the story that depicts real human virtues shining through in the face of hostility and desperate circumstance. Sami manages to allow us to walk in his shoes and convey what it means to truly grow up.
Photos: Tim Grey