by Michael Eaton.

Nottingham Playhouse Wellington Circus NG1 5AF To 19 June 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu 1.30pm.
Post-show Discussion 15 June.

TICKETS: 0115 941 9419.
Runs: 1hr 50min No interval.
Review: Alan Geary 11 June.

All the right components well in place – bar one.
As an evening’s theatre this has all the right components well in place. Except, that is, for its central subject matter, the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

Giles Croft’s direction appears to be impeccable; with some qualifications, the acting’s good or better; and the set – a more or less bare one surrounded by suggestions of a crumpled fuselage – is spot on. But dissection of a terrorist outrage and its aftermath, at least the way it’s done here, is probably the stuff of small-screen drama-documentary, not a play on a stage.

At an hour and fifty minutes without an interval it’s too long, but that wouldn’t matter if it gripped as a dramatic experience.

Middle-Englanders, Geoffrey (Michael Benfield) and Maureen (Joan Moon), and Laura (Jennifer Woodward), an American woman, people all bereaved by Lockerbie, are being interviewed on present-day TV. This basic narrative is interwoven with flashbacks involving a host of characters.

Benfield is over-enthusiastic as Michael but comes good at the end as an entirely convincing Al-Megrahi: he makes him into a rounded person instead of a cardboard cut-out. David Beckford’s switch from interviewer to Gaddafi is well done. And Woodward is an excellent QC even when she has to say “You don’t have to be very bright to mend a car”. Moon is strong as Maureen.

Once you’ve taken writer Michael Eaton’s point – it’s a good point – that the trial and associated events were a conspiracy and not a sequence of bungles, and there was and is high-up skulduggery involved, the play drags. And the characters are representative abstractions from a mass of real persons, intentional stereotypes, not individually realised people, so it’s difficult to care much about them

But despite its basic flaw, The Families of Lockerbie has some interesting things to say about the media. And at the end it examines issues of justice, revenge and forgiveness. It’s also admirably even-handed, unlike for example David Hare’s The Permanent Way, which is a one-sided diatribe and with which it can be directly compared.

Interviewer: David Beckford.
Geoffrey: Robert Benfield.
Maureen: Joan Moon.
Laura: Jennifer Woodward.

Director: Giles Croft.
Designer: Nathan Rose.
Lighting: Alexandra Stafford.
Sound: Drew Baumohl.
Composer: Jonathan Girling.

2010-06-13 22:00:15

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