[This is the headline over an article in today’s edition of the Maltese newspaper The Times. It reads in part:]
The Lockerbie disaster continues to pose questions, even 25 years after it occurred. And, although many believe that justice was done when Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was imprisoned, or when he passed away more recently, others have continuously protested his innocence and suggested that the Lockerbie web is actually woven far deeper and darker than we have been allowed to believe.
Now, an intriguing real-life drama, which is being produced by DnA Theatre Productions from this weekend, asks some of the questions that have been on people’s minds for decades, and also strives to answer some of them.
Written by Kenneth Ross, the script probes the potential miscarriage of justice that followed the tragic downing of Pan Am 103 on December 21, 1988, killing 270 people. The man convicted of the bombing, al-Megrahi, was said to have planted the bomb in Malta before it made its way to the ill-fated flight.
Looking at it from a production point of view, it is an altogether different sort of play from the ones DnA are known for staging. Their past productions have been far lighter, with recent hits including The Secret Lives of Henry and Alice and Ghost Writer.
However, with the premiere of The Lockerbie Bomber this Friday, they will be entering the dark world of politics and opening a new chapter for themselves.
Explaining their ethos behind the company, producers Denise Mulholland and Alan Montanaro explain they started DnA to provide a platform for creative expression and exploration, with the added desire to offer audiences a mix of cheers and chills, self reflection, analysis and, above all, enjoyment and entertainment.
With that in mind, the company chose 2013 – the 25th anniversary of the Lockerbie disaster – to stage their first “serious” play. And it is extremely serious at that.
“Conspiracy theories are rife and, in the words of my own character, an MI6 agent: ‘It will all come out in the wash eventually’,” says Montanaro.
“The Malta connection to the disaster (or, rather, the alleged connection, perhaps) will resonate with anybody who comes to watch this show because it really is close to home.
“Many may assume that the debate surrounding the bombing over Lockerbie is now over – especially now that suspect al-Megrahi and Gaddafi are dead,” he continues. “However, evidently, there is plenty of room for further interrogation of the case as our play suggests.
“The subsequent investigation was full of holes, to the extent that the inquiry and trials have been dubbed Scotland’s ‘national shame’.”
The play presents six carefully developed characters with very defined roles: parents who lost a child in the disaster, two journalists determined to uncover the truth, and a CIA and MI6 agent scheming to disseminate their version of events.
Montanaro, in the part of the stiff M16 agent, admits to being out of his comfort zone with this performance, as the character is so far removed from who he is in real life, as well as from his past larger-than-life stage comedy personas.
“But that’s what acting is supposed to be, I guess,” he says with a smile. “And I am enjoying the role of Bruce tremendously.”
He goes on to explain that the cast and crew have also pulled together to create a brilliant product, and says he is learning a lot from the formidable team, which includes director Herman Grech and fellow actors Mikhail Basmadjian, Julia Calvert, Manuel Cauchi, Denise Muholland and Alan Paris.
“The subject matter has also meant there’s been a lot of scope for discussion and development between us all. I expect I may miss the laughter that comes with comedy, but I expect there will be reactions of a different nature in this play. I will certainly be listening out for the quick intakes of breath from the audience.”
Montanaro stresses that this isn’t just a “serious” play; it’s a political play about an event that actually happened. In fact, the show’s script has presented a double-edged sword for those working on it.
“There’s information to look up and research on the internet, but there’s just so much of it to wade through that you end up getting lost in forming your own opinions of what actually happened that day in Scotland. You can drive yourself mad thinking about it,” he says. “And I think it will give audiences a hell of a lot to think about too.”
With that in mind, Montanaro hopes that the audience will enjoy seeing him in this new genre.
“It’s been a long time coming and I’m going all the way with it on this production,” he says. “I can confirm, however, that comedy will be back on the agenda shortly and DnA is already in the planning stages for the fourth instalment of the popular FourPlay brand, aptly titled FourPlayFour.”