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Lockerbie: Unfinished Business
Published on Sunday, 29 August 2010

Gilded Balloon Teviot
4-30 Aug (not 18), 2:30pm (3:40pm)
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

I don’t have the heart to put a star rating on this review.  How can you take a father’s grief, and rate it out of five?  Lockerbie: Unfinished Business isn’t really theatre, in the conventional sense; it’s an hour-long pitch, the impassioned words of a still-bereft dad who feels that justice has not been done.

It doesn’t make any difference that Jim Swire’s words are spoken by actor David Benson, nor that Benson’s monologue is clearly flagged as a work of artistic creation.  It’s still obvious that Dr Swire had a big part in putting together the production – not least because he’s shared some precious pictures from his family album of his daughter, Flora.  It's hard to fully understand that the bright and beautiful young woman we see was one of the 270 people who died at Lockerbie, just before Christmas some 22 years ago.

That subject matter, and Dr Swire himself, deserve the utmost respect.  But if I’m to show respect, I have to tell the truth – and the truth is, I didn’t respond well to this play.  When someone spends an hour expounding on what you “ought” to believe, there’s a cussed part of human nature which demands to hear the other point of view; and if that other point of view is treated with the disdain it’s sometimes shown here, you wonder if there’s something you’re not being told.

Lockerbie: Unfinished Business appears to be weighing up the evidence.  Two arguments are presented side-by-side on a video screen, creating the impression of a balanced analysis which invites us to make up our own minds.  But it’s really doing no such thing – the disputed testimony which convicted Al-Megrahi is convincingly challenged, but the also-disputed evidence implicating Iran is barely scrutinized at all.

The terrible irony, of course, is that this is exactly what the British government and the Scottish judiciary stand accused of: cherry-picking the evidence to support a theory already planted in their minds.  I’m guessing that Benson, the play’s author as well as its sole actor, felt that the Establishment story had got enough airtime.  It’s wholly understandable that he’d decide his hour should be devoted solely to the other point of view.  But credibility is a slippery thing… and this script couldn’t keep its hold on me.

I’ll end, though, on one of the brief sections of unambiguous theatre – the recreation of the terrible day itself, and Benson’s heart-searing evocation of Dr Swire’s wait for news of the flight.  Against a backdrop of TV reports from 1988, the perfectly-pitched, desperate-but-controlled acting was a compelling reminder of the human tragedy underpinning the legal debate.  And for me – someone who's followed the twists and turns of the courtroom drama throughout most of my adult life – a reminder was desperately required.  I may not be convinced by the play's conclusions; but as a wake-up call, it unquestionably succeeds.

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These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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