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Finding Bin Laden
Metro Gilded Balloon Teviot, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Group: Gilded Balloon Productions and Henry Naylor


Natasha Hullugale

Henry Naylor's witty, bitchy script is let down by the final ten minutes when the audience is subjected to a hideous manipulation of the emotions.

Finding Bin Laden is not an excessively sophisticated satire with anything breathtakingly original to say but until it's close, it is well acted and entertaining. The war on terror has officially lasted near two years thus far and it has been satirised so exhaustively that we are all hard pressed to find a fresh angle. Yet there will continue to be a huge hunger for comedy like Finding Bin Laden as it seems almost like a source of comfort and an antidote to helplessness.

Naylor gives the impression that he appreciates the sophistication of his audience, and the well-worn but much appreciated one liners flow easily. So why, given that there is a mutual agreement of a shared joke, should he suddenly decide that his audience needs lecturing on the true nature of war?

The story is a straightforward account of washed up TV war reporter played by the immensely likeable David Lamb and his sidekick camerawoman Azadine (Nina Conti) as they try to find a decent story in John Simpson-liberated Kabul. The characters depicted are obvious (fanatically committed US soldier Chester, locals who learn perfect English by listening to the World Service) but skilful acting make them sufficiently engaging.

Finding Bin Laden is easily able to demonstrate the role and responsibility of war reporters and how US foreign policy subsists on an untarnished ideal of the eternal enemy. Towards the end, however, Naylor changes tone with such violence that there may have been some in the audience who felt like chastised school children. Naylor forgets the previous hour and the audience is treated to a diatribe against the shallow content of Western news and its subscribers and how we allow ourselves to be fed lies from military spin machines. This is a patronising and frankly ludicrous twist. Those who choose to watch satire are generally politically and media savvy and don't need to be spoon-fed any shocking truth.

It is a shame that Henry Naylor thought that he had to employ a final, ham-fisted approach as otherwise Finding Bin Laden would remain untarnished as a worthwhile, well-executed satire.


1 August to 25 August.

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