The Women Of Lockerbie, Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond
Friday 09 September 2005
The title echoes Euripides' play Women of Troy. The women of Lockerbie are represented by a three-strong chorus of locals, who are struggling to come to terms with the horror they witnessed (one came home to find her living room filled with 71 bodies still strapped into their plane seats).
The key confrontation is between the women and a US State Department official. With the forensic examination of the remains completed, the government wants everything burned. Regarding it as their duty to show that evil can be turned to love, the women beg for the victims' clothes to be released so they can wash them and return them to the families in an act of ritual purification.
Presented on a set of rocks and streams, Auriol Smith's production conjures up the right grave dignity of atmosphere, and the performances are strong.
But the events that cause the crucial change of heart in the government official (Todd Boyce) come to us, frustratingly, in a Greek messenger report of an off-stage event. And in disappointing contrast to Athenian drama, the political context is thinly outlined. The idea that the explosion of the Pan Am plane was revenge for America's destruction of an Iranian passenger jet is left dangling.
The women of Lockerbie did spend a year washing and ironing every piece of clothing. I was left feeling that the significance and beauty of this gesture would have been better conveyed in a documentary-style piece where the poetry was allowed to emerge from the prosaic pragmatics.
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