Friday, 6 August 2010

Lockerbie play draws attention at Edinburgh Fringe

[This is the headline over a recent Associated Press news agency report. It reads in part:]

Amid the creative mayhem, organizers are bracing to see whether ticket sales will be hurt by Britain's battered economic state. And one attention-grabbing show is asking audiences to revisit a raw and divisive subject: the Lockerbie bombing.

The attack on a New York-bound jet over a small town, just 60 miles (100 kilometers) from here, killed 270 people, many of them American.

The tragedy moved back into the headlines a year ago, when the Scottish government released the Libyan convicted of the bombing, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi. His release infuriated relatives of many Lockerbie victims, especially those in the United States.

Al-Megrahi, who has cancer, was freed on compassionate grounds after doctors said he had three months to live. A year later he is still alive, which ensures the wound remains open.

It's also back in the news because a group of US senators is investigating whether BP-linked oil deals in Libya had any connection to al-Megrahi's release.

Writer-performer David Benson was at the Fringe last year when al-Megrahi was freed and an international furor erupted. It inspired him to write the one-man show Lockerbie: Unfinished Business.

The play is based on an unpublished memoir by Jim Swire, a British doctor who lost his daughter in the attack. Swire has become well known in Britain for his campaign to prove that al-Megrahi was wrongly convicted and that evidence points to Iranian-backed Palestinian militants as the perpetrators.

"He is engaged in a single-minded mission to get justice for his daughter, Flora," said Benson, a Fringe veteran who has created plays about Noel Coward, Samuel Johnson and the death of Princess Diana. "He can't rest knowing the men who did it are still at large."

Benson knows many disagree with Swire, but hopes dissenters will come see the show, which offers both a — somewhat patchy — lesson in murky recent history and a moving depiction of Swire's restrained, intense, very British grief — he hides his pain with a stiff upper lip, but at memories of his daughter it quivers.

"It's not just about the evidence," Benson said. "It's about his personal tragedy, his loss and how he's dealt with his grief."


  1. "Swire has become well known in Britain for his campaign to prove that al-Megrahi was wrongly convicted........"

    ......a view supported by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission who, in 2007, found six grounds to refer the conviction back to the Court of Appeal. There. That's a bit more accurate and proves Dr Swire's belief isn't just his alone.

  2. Sorry, I withdraw the word "supported" in favour of "strengthened"

  3. Dr. Swire is an awesome man.

    However, the American Jim Swire, when he or she emerges, is more likely to be the make-or-break figure. And they'll owe a debt to Swire. The massive efforts of the US government to co-opt all relatives this side has, I think, been targeted at keeping such a person silent and compliant. But it won't last forever. The spell will fade.