I went to see Falkirk Tryst Theatre’s production, “The Lockerbie Bomber” last night (26th May). This was the premiere of a script by Kenneth Ross, pseudonym of Alan Clark, a member of the theatre company. The audience of around one hundred in Falkirk Town Hall included Dr Jim Swire, who briefly addressed the audience after the performance. I don’t know what opportunity there will be for others to see this play, but see it if you can. The atmosphere is intense, and at no stage did I feel I was watching amateur players.
The play examines the events and aftermath of the bombing through the eyes of a couple who lost a young child in the disaster, a pair of investigative journalists, and two spooks – one British, one CIA.
Scottish art from the fifteenth century makars up to Irvine Welsh has tended to look at the world through more unflinching eyes than our southern neighbours, and Ross’s play follows in that tradition. The stage set is a litter of aeroplane wreckage which the actors continuously wander through, adopting as furniture for the scene in progress so that all action takes place among this debris of disaster.
Ross seems to have worked on the assumption that the audience knows nothing of the detail of the Camp Zeist trial – a defensible assumption, but it leads to some lengthy exposition in dialogue. However as journalist Maggie McInnes, played with fine conviction by Rhona Law, sits down to write her exposé, dark forces are already at work and the dramatic pace rises. When an attempt by the British intelligence officer to silence the journalists by leaking a little of the truth fails, the CIA agent resorts to more traditional methods. Maggie is abducted and tortured, in one of the most chilling pieces of theatre I have seen, and I go to a lot of theatre. Of course in the real world it is quite unnecessary to torture journalists in order to have them ‘toe the line’ – their willing self-censorship is almost as horrifying as the breaking of fingers.
As the journalists and the bereaved family try to piece together what has happened, the secret agents meet in the background and arrange events and outcomes as they are instructed. The CIA man is a straightforward thug who enjoys his work, while the British agent recognises the human damage they are doing but wearily accepts the ‘realpolitik’. He expresses the only note of optimism in the play: he expects that the Scottish government, for its own survival, must at some point cut its support for the Crown Service and allow the truth to emerge. The play ends with the cast all on stage, simply standing and staring in silence at the audience for a long moment. There are no bows or curtain calls - Lockerbie is unfinished business.