Edinburgh Fringe 2013
The disaster at Lockerbie has kept conspiracy theorists going over the years and in 3 short scenes Lockerbie: Lost Voices explores one such theory; that the flight was brought down as a CIA team with evidence against rogue agents were on board and had to be stopped. Through fictional travellers and the head of the CIA’s delegation we get awaiting departure, onboard the flight and afterwards in heaven. It has a slightly other worldy feel to it which is not helped by being the proponent or explorer of a conspiracy theory but has enough worthwhile moments to make it plausible.
In the lounge before departure we meet the couple married for years arguing in short hand and a step mother and daughter arguing over a return to home to the daughter’s father – both stock sets of characters who add background to the piece. In between we have the CIA operative along with his journalist mistress who are going to put the world to rights. Their bickering and exposition of the conspiracy is all too familiar on board until the bang. Once we get to heaven there are observations that American involvement in the initial search at Lockerbie hid the evidence and skewered the investigation.
I am not a huge conspiracy theorist; never have been. Lockerbie is a bit of a JFK moment for people in Scotland so any drama that explores it shall have people responding in emotional ways. I was on a train returning from down south when it happened. I understand, after the release of Megrahi the continued need for people to try and make sense of it all but anything that tackles such a huge and sensitive subject needs a massive pair of slippers and x ray specs to allow it to tread carefully and see further than a £75 Million trial.
Here the writing doesn’t always do it for me. I understand the need for fictional characters as the people on board were real but it does detract then from the authenticity of the piece and the argument. It was also quite well able to stand on its own two feet and the end piece with straight to audience monologue out of character was I think meant to be effective; I was less than convinced. There were, however, some decent points in the dialogue such as the couple bickering over what was wrong – a familiar event for those of us of a certain age – which was well written, well observed and well acted.
There were a few of the accents dropped at times it does tend to undermine a professional the piece. At times there was some patchy acting which doesn’t help either. I reviewed this company last year and am glad to say I think I noticed some marked improvement. It was partly in the acting but certainly in the staging. I thought the seats were exquisite – not necessarily appropriate given the subject matter perhaps but they were beautiful. It underpinned nicely the big bang that made me jump.
I found overall, once again the claims being made by this company hard to reconcile with what I saw onstage. There was nothing experimental about the presentation, featured little by way of cross cultural collaboration bar the special relationship and little I could claim were the merger of art forms and styles. Corinne – go radical and invite me back! I decided to ignore this qualm this time around as they may have that at the forefront of other work and see this as it was – a theatrical experience.
As a theatre piece it was slightly clunky, presented theory as fact and asked us to believe that the one character out of the six who was real was also right. I don’t buy it but that is perhaps just because I have an alternate view of Lockerbie and it is hardly fair to claim the entire play is null and void because of my own prejudice but it still troubles me. I wanted a counter point to the argument – someone to really take John on. Therein lies the drama. It was not to be.
The collaborative efforts did not, however leave me completely cold and I enjoyed the collective whole. The staging was good and most of the direction measured and well done. I still don’t understand why a couple of characters went behind screens and held a pose in scene one so I wasn’t always on board with the direction.
Overall this has added to the debate on Lockerbie and why we as a small nation allowed Megrahi to go home on grounds of compassion. It has authentic news to tell but some of it is lost in the lack of drama and analysis. At times it comes across like propaganda – something that plays on Lockerbie that I have seen have undoubtedly suffered from so forgiveness is easy. I shall, however look out for the company in the future and hope to see it grow under the terms it appears to hold so dear.