Sunday, 4 August 2013

Edinburgh Fringe Review: The “Lockerbie Bomber”

[This is the heading over a review by Dan Hutton on the website A Younger Theatre.  It reads in part:]

With al-Megrahi and Gadaffi dead, many may assume that the debate surrounding the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie is now over. Kenneth N Ross’s The “Lockerbie Bomber”, however, suggests that there is still plenty of room for interrogation of the case, as the facts surrounding the case and its subsequent investigation are filled with holes. The subject matter, dubbed Scotland’s “national shame”, feels urgent as the country gears up for its referendum on independence (...)

The six characters begin as three discrete couples: the parents of a child lost in the attacks; a pair of newspaper reporters attempting to uncover the truth; and a politician and US agent scheming to disseminate their version of events. Though the first third bombards us with facts and on-theme speechifying, a clear if thin narrative soon emerges, seeing the parents questioned by the media who are in turn threatened by the US agency. Ross’s attacks on the media, governments and the judiciary system are all spot-on, but come so thick and fast that it often feels too much is being crammed in, thus meaning the whole piece lacks any real depth. 

The inverted commas in the title soon reveal the lack of hard evidence around the case, asking us to reevaluate who we refer to when we utter those words: at one point, the father suggests that “governments decide what the truth is”. As the journalists report, the evidence leading to al-Megrahi’s conviction is dubious and the journey the suitcase apparently took is at least a little far-fetched. But though we get facts, the excess of monologues often slows down the pace. 

Alan Clark’s production, presented by Nugget Theatre Company, does the best that it can with the text, and features strong performance from its ensemble. Both Clark himself and Maggie McInnes manage to make the journalists rounded individuals even when committing questionable acts for a story, and the scenes between Brian Paterson’s agent and Craig Murray’s politician are tense. But it is the calmly played, understated moments between Carol Clark and Jim Allan’s Liz and Bill Pasquall which are the most human, and during these scenes the play comes closest to uncovering “truth”. 

A smart lighting design by Jim Allan and Andrew Murphy makes use of limited equipment in the small space, whilst Richard Mackintosh’s sound adds context to scene changes (though I question the somewhat heavy-handed use of Barber’s Adagio for Strings at the end). A minimal set design features the debris from a crashed aircraft, initially in wreckage across the stage but slowly uprighted and tidied throughout: only through talking and sharing can we begin to fix the carnage left by acts like this. 

The “Lockerbie Bomber” is at C Venues until 13 August. For more information and tickets visit

[A four star review of the play can be read here on the Broadway Baby website.]

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