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'O-Santa' bin Laden causes a stir

By CNN's Jim Boulden

No reindeer -- and the presents are explosives strapped to Santa's waist
No reindeer -- and the presents are explosives strapped to Santa's waist

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The black boots and red trousers are certainly familiar this time of year ... but Santa Claus is not usually seen with a bomb strapped around his waist.

He appears in a controversial fringe one-man play, "Wanted, Dead or Alive," depicting Osama bin Laden as Father Christmas, which has opened in a small London theatre.

The writer and star of the show, Andrew Dallmeyer, said portraying bin Laden as Santa Claus was the perfect way to explore how the al Qaeda leader would explain his views to Americans, whose government accuses him of masterminding the September 11 terrorist attacks.

In the play the Bin Laden character is hiding out in a Florida shopping mall disguised as a hired Santa. "I don't really reveal who I might be until near the end," he said.

In between having children on his lap, he explains his hatred for their culture. "I've tried to imagine what he might think and feel about what he sees around him. So I have started from that point," said Dallmeyer.

"Bin Laden" explains it like this in the play: "The military industrial complex demands that economic spending is an imperative. After the war on communism as the pre text, we now have the war on terrorism ..."

Dallmeyer's controversial play is in the middle of a one-week run in a tiny theatre on the top floor of a London pub.

"Bin Laden" continues: "Let me tell you there have been more executions in America over the last five years than in Saudi Arabia during a similar period and why? Because it's popular with the voters."

The publicity material for the show says the similarities between Santa and bin Laden are "pronounced."

"Bin Laden is a bearded man renowned for living in a cave, whose reputation is mythical and who raises debate about whether or not he lives today. He is also one of the most wanted men in the world.

"Father Christmas is a bearded man renowned for living in a grotto, whose reputation is mythical and who raises debate about whether or not he lives today. As December 25th approaches, he too is one of the most wanted men in the world."

Earlier performances of Wanted Dead or Alive have caused a stir, including death threats.

Authorities still unsure where Bin Laden is or even if he is still alive
Authorities still unsure where Bin Laden is or even if he is still alive

But Dallmeyer said anyone who argues he is glorifying bin Laden has not seen the play ... nor got his point.

"I am trying to understand how somebody could hate so much," he says.

"I've opted to present him in disguise if you like. Out of the mouth of this supposedly saintly character comes this bile and venom which I think is in a interesting contrast to the appearance."

Dallmeyer got the idea while playing Santa Claus in a mall last Christmas. The costume reminded him of bin Laden.

From there he wrote a scenario with America's most wanted man railing against the American dream while dressed up as one of the country's favourite mythical characters.

The play was sold out its first night. Said a member of the audience: "I like the idea very much. And I think there's a very good chance of bin Laden being in a place where we would not expect him to be."

Said another: "All the arguments you heard you have heard before. Its not that I disagree with them, on the whole, but I think it all sounds very familiar."

Dallmeyer is not sure if he will continue the show past Christmas, but he says his ultimate aim is to promote understanding.

He said he would like to see the concept not only on the stage but also in schools and other venues.



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