Directed by Anthea Williams
The Courtyard Theatre, Canberra Theatre Centre to 2 February
Reviewed by Len Power 30 January 2019
Award-winning author, poet and rapper, Omar bin Musa, hails from Queanbeyan and is rapidly making a name for himself internationally with his poetry, novels and music. ‘Since Ali Died’ recently won a Sydney Theatre Award for best cabaret production.
‘Since Ali Died’ is essentially a one man show with additional fine vocals by singer, Chanel Cole. Performed on a bare stage with occasional lighting changes, Omar Musa presents a very personal mixture of his poems, songs and thoughts.
Musa movingly credits his parents with the strength to endure and overcome the difficulties of growing up in Queanbeyan as a brown-skinned Muslim boy. Discovering charismatic American boxer, Muhammad Ali, gave him a hero to look up to.
Encouraged to question everything happening around him meant that life probably wasn’t easy, but it gave him a vast store of experiences to inform his subsequent writing. His show reflects these life experiences as well as his artistic influences and is a strong and often confronting showcase for his poetry, words and music.
Particularly effective were his poems concerning his religion and Malaysian heritage. A lot of the detail of his growing up in Queanbeyan was disturbing but presented with wry humour. It was fascinating to hear how he viewed and coped with experiences at this time in his life, leading to the development of a unique individuality.
He commands the stage right from the start of his show, giving a fine performance from start to finish. There’s a certain amount of larrikin there under the surface with a wicked smile and a young boy cheekiness which is very engaging. He also shows his clarity of thought about the world around him, uses the rough language of the tough environment he grew up in and makes it clear that he has opinions and every right to express them.
There’s no sense of bitterness in his performance. This is a young man who has struggled to find his place in the world and, through literature and music, shows us with imagination, humour and determination where he is going.
Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast in his ‘On Stage’ performing arts radio program on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3.30pm on Artsound FM 92.7.