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Progress Theatre - The Women of Lockerbie

19th to 24th May 2008.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

One-act Lockerbie drama falls short of Greek tragedy

The Women of Lockerbie, at Progress Theatre, Reading, from Monday, May 19 to Saturday, May 24

On December 21, 1988, Pan Am flight 103 from Frankfurt to New York, via London, exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. All 259 passengers and crew killed; as were 11 residents of Lockerbie. So is this appalling event suitable for a 75-minute drama? Should we not let the people of Lockerbie and the family of those killed resolve their grief with closure?

Deborah Brevoort obviously thinks that she has a case for revisiting the tragedy and explores these issues in her one-act drama The Women of Lockerbie.

Opening on the seven-year anniversary of the tragedy, the Livingstons from New Jersey come to Lockerbie to somehow 'heal' the mother's grief. Their son, Adam, was killed in the crash and no evidence of his body was ever found. His mother, consumed by grief, misguidedly searches the hills for his presence.

From the outset, the mother Madeline (Heidi Ashton) haunts the stage like some lost wraith, howling with pain and loss as though she is the only one that merits sympathy in this crippled town.

Against the already grim background, the women of Lockerbie, led by matriarchal Olive, argue with the American authorities over the release of the victims' clothes from the 'Shelves of Sorrow'. It appears, rather oddly, that they wish to wash and return them to relatives, as if it will resolve any further grief issues.

Brevoort felt that such horror deserved to be treated as Greek tragedy, so on a minimal stylised set there is the essential chorus, Woman 1 and Woman 2, to comment on the central premise.

This, unfortunately leaves the writing rather laboured in its quest to copy a supposed Greek model. Phrases such as 'Our lives are made of choices, hundreds of little choices that determine our fate' or 'Trust in the strength of love to overcome the awesome power of hatred' do not a Greek tragedy make.

Despite the flaws, it did tend to pick up as plot revelations exposed the subsumed emotions. As would be expected, it was finally resolved with a hearty bout of breast-beating that led to a conclusive emotional cleansing.

Against this dour aridity, we did have a sorely needed comic piece from Lesley McEwen's Hattie as she battled with her employer, the US Government - Tom Jenson's George Jones. He also played the foil to Jan Stephens' credible Olive who certainly elicited more respect than Madeline did whose husband Bill (Peter O'Sullivan) even found maddening.

Overall, an emotionally draining piece, yet I imagined the cast felt this more than the audience at this first night performance. The faults in the play lie squarely with Brevoort's belief that she can write tragedy. Heartfelt and deserving it maybe but unfortunately it comes across as somewhat contrived.