Friday, April 20, 2018

Since Ali Died

Griffin Theatre Company presents SINCE ALI DIED, by Omar Musa. 11th - 14th April, presented as partof the Batch Festival, 11th -28 April, in the SBW Stables Theatre, Kings Cross.

Of many things, in SINCE ALI DIED, Omar Musa reflects the influence that Muhammad Ali had on him as a child living and growing-up in Queanbeyan, a Muslim/Australian: "a brown skinned child living in a black land",  and of his weeping at Ali's death on the 3rd June, 2016. For, Ali was not only famous for his greatness in the Boxing Ring, or his conversion to the Muslim faith, but also for his political advocacies, especially for the African American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's and further, sometimes evoked in his use of what some labelled 'trash talking', a kind of speak that was free styled with rhyme schemes and spoken word poetry that anticipated what we know as rap and hip hop: "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee","Black is Beautiful".

From some of my friends who also saw this work and Omar Musa: ".. powerful, smart and authentic, what a man - ideas about assimilation struck a chord." "We loved it, very moving. Aside from his amazing writing - it was wonderful to have an opportunity to stare unashamedly at such a handsome and charismatic man. We both got a bit teary now and then ... triggered."

From the blurb for the Batch Festival: "... rapper, poet and lyrical powerhouse ... Musa mashes poems, live music and stories together to confront heartbreak, human connection and the dark realities of Australian culture."

Stories of his family and friends intermixed with reactions to the racial politics that he has endured as an Australian/Asian Muslim male living in Australia radiate out with a personal and cultural resonance of such deep honesty and gentle wisdom, having been burnished in the crucible of a sometimes hostile environment, to such a heat degree, for the passion of anger to have been burnt away so as to effect a residue of a communication that evokes an overwhelming empathy and embrace.

All of these stories are written/spoken with such direct simplicity in a tremendous poetic language mastery, delivered with the relaxed physical ownership of a deep association of understanding and love, to create a charisma of such bewildering power, that I found myself weeping for most of the hour of this performance. Deep weeping of recognised truths. Touched by the poetry. Touched by the man's humanity. Touched by the egoless sharing. I was not the only one weeping. At completion there was a spontaneous standing ovation and an audience that was fused together in an admiring devoted and stimulated place in the world. Mr Musa gives you a sense of optimism, hope for the future. I went to the theatre perturbed and misanthropic with world and personal political weights but left that theatre, only an hour later, in an altogether different state of mind.

His poetry has been published and his novel 'HERE COME THE DOGS' are all impressive reads. Keep your antenna out for his next performance dates. Not to be missed whenever he next appears.

N.B. On Thursday I saw Nicholas Hytner's production of JULIUS CAESAR at the National Live Theatre Broadcast from the new theatre in London, The Bridge, and while hearing the Shakespeare text thought: "Wow, someone ought to commission a play of Shakespearian scale from Omar Musa. The poetic echoes of both writers resounded so powerfully."

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