Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Finding the explosive truth

[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.”

The Lockerbie Bomber is being performed at St James Cavalier on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and November 8-10 at 8pm. For bookings call 2122 3216, e-mail or book online at


  1. MISSION LOCKERBIE, 2013 - (google translation, german/english):

    I, Edwin Bollier (MEBO) do not understand why the Scottish Justice a professional, forensic new examination of the crucial piece of evidence, "MST-13" timer circuit board (PT-35) delayed - delayed - delayed ?

    If the original fragment "PT-35" (pictured on the FBI photographic evidence, production nr. 334) has a total of 9 layers of fiberglass, Libya could be brought in conjunction with the bombing of PanAm 103, over Lockerbie - and Scotland would be acquited from a possible miscarriages of Justice ...
    Dear Scot's - are there any objections ?
    in german language:

    Ich, Edwin Bollier (MEBO) verstehe nicht warum die Schottische Justiz eine
    professionelle, forensiche Nach-Prüfung des entscheidenden Timerfragments, des "MST-13" Beweisstückes (PT-35) verzögert - verzögert - verzögert ?

    Wenn das reale Fragment (PT-35) abgebildet auf der FBI- Beweisfoto (Produktion
    Nr. 334) total 9 Lagen Fiberglas aufweist, könnte Libyen mit dem PanAm 103 Bombing über Lockerbie in Verbindung gebracht werden - und Scotland wäre aus dem Verdacht eines miscarriages of Justice befreit ...
    Also sehr geehrte Scot's, was spricht dagegen ?

    by Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO Ltd. Telecommunication Switzerland. Webpage:

  2. When Megrahi was released the media was awash with 'the Lockerbie bomber’ repeated like a mantra.

    Partly done to ensure the myth becomes folklore and partly to prevent any alternative explanation from getting a hearing.

    And so successful that we now have a play called the ‘The Lockerbie Bomber’, as opposed to the ‘alleged’ or even ‘was there a Lockerbie Bomber’?

    True the play does question the official line, but at the cost of repeating the official headline, which is often the only thing the public remember.


  3. In the Name of ALLAH, the most Compassionate, the most Merciful

    MISSION LOCKERBIE, 2013 - (google translation, german/english):

    The "Malta spectacle" marked as: "The Lockerbie Bomber" - is a honour infringement against the fraudulently convicted, Abdelbaset Al Megrahi - and his family.

    The drama should be titled as:
    "The sacrificed Lockerbie Victims 271" !
    In german:
    Das "Malta Schauspiel", markiert als: "The Lockerbie Bomber" - ist eine scheussliche Ehrverletzung gegenüber dem verstorbenen, vorsätzlich falsch verurteilten, Abdelbaset Al Megrahi - und seiner Familie.

    Das Drama sollte den Titel tragen: "Das geopferte Lockerbie Opfer 271".

    by Edwin and Mahnaz Bollier, MEBO Ltd. Switzerland. Webpage:

  4. Dave wrote:
    "And so successful that we now have a play called the ‘The Lockerbie Bomber’, as opposed to" ... "‘was there a Lockerbie Bomber’?

    Yeah, but as you know, to give it any based-on-a-true-story legitimacy, the playwriters would have to deal with:

    1. Debris was found that could only be explained by a powerful explosion inside a suitcase.

    This would include the whole luggage container AVE4041, which, as the only one, was totally destroyed, blasted from inside near the bottom (or so it seems).

    2. The reconstruction of the plane clearly demonstrated that a hole was blown, from inside, in the aft side - BTW exactly where AVE4041 would have been placed.

    3. Explosives residue was found on parts of AVE4041 and elsewhere on blast-torn debris, including the pieces of clothes.

    A bomb - or IED if you prefer - explains all this in full.

    While I have yet to see any other theory that explains _any_ of above.

    So what should our real-story no-bomb playwriters do?

    Apart from (just off the top of my head) suggest all of this:
    - the blowing up of AVE4041 happened on the ground
    - the other bomb-damaged debris was produced as well
    - the people assembling the plane fragments were being told to fake the hole
    - the test for explosives residue was bogus as well

    ... allowing the plane to drop down for another reason.

    All of which, I believe, would have meant that a significant number of professionals, volunteers and other people involved (a total of at least several dozens, as far as I can see) was being instructed to lie by their superiors and leaders, to fake their work and create (and give) false evidence. Starting at a very early stage, and all of them staying quiet ever since.

    And not to forget: not a shred of evidence to support the accusation.

    Hmmm. I BTW wonder if JfM would find the play supportive of their cause, or the opposite.

    In contrast, a play based on the extremely well-documented realities surrounding the conviction of Al-Megrahi is by far exciting and controversial enough, and has the advantage of having informational value as well, even if a bit or two come out wrong.

    All in all - to ever see ‘Was there a Lockerbie Bomber?’ you might have to write and stage it yourself.

    Which for some reason reminds me of this one:

    - How did your school play turn out?
    - It was a smashing success! Parents enjoyed it to the full, we had them roaring with laughter all evening, from start to end!
    - Terrific! What was the play called?
    - "Hamlet".