Norm & Ahmed

Nicki Alchin
17th Nov 2021

The questioning of who holds the power in Australia began 53 years ago in the first showing of Norm & Ahmed. It continues in 2021 and is especially helped along by the recently experienced covid environment which is spurring us on as a nation to rethink almost every aspect of the status quo.

It is therefore timely that Alex Buzo's topical two-hander Norm & Ahmed is currently being produced by Australian Theatre Live (ATL) at Parramatta's Riverside Theatre. The production is a new venture for ATL as it is also being digitally captured. The project has been made with the assistance of Create NSW and the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund - an Australian Government.

Within the Aussie battler Vietnam veteran stereotype of Norm Gallagher, played by Laurence Coy, Buzo explores themes of bigotry, racism, homophobia, and white male dominance in running the world when Norm happens by chance late one night to encounter Ahmed, an overseas student from Pakistan who is studying in Sydney.

Running for 60 minutes with no intermission, the acting is strong and intense. Coy pulls off to a tee with such believability the arrogant warped view of the world and cunning that such a character as Norm, holds. Having acted the role for around 15 years and some 800 performances, Coy definitely has a close relationship with the part of Norm.

Ahmed's character, as played by Rajan Velu, bounces off beautifully from Coy's portrayal of the so-called enlightened white middle aged Aussie male - a complex mix of red neck attitudes, nostalgia and a desire to express emotion but not really knowing how to.

The initial caution and reticence of Ahmed to engage with Norm is clearly visible. So is the softening of Ahmed's guard to fall under Norm's spell.

The beauty of the play is that it exposes the hypocritical loathing and narrow view of the status quo in a way that keeps the audience guessing of where the play is heading, as well as doing some soul searching about their own views.

For those students studying the play for HSC Drama, it is a great opportunity to see it come to life. Two performances will be followed by a Q&A session with the actors and creatives. However, no matter who you are Norm & Ahmed is a great reminder of the cringe-worthy flaws in the Australian character and the patriarchy.

And definitely go see it if you have had a gutful and are seriously questioning the attitudes and vision of those who are currently pulling the strings in the day to day machinations of Australian life.

Running from 15 to 20 November 2021 at Parramatta's Riverside Theatre, further information about the production and ticket purchasing can be found online at the following link:

Photo by Becky Matthews