The Women of Lockerbie by Deborah Brevoort

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Review by Alan Goodchild in the Farnham Herald:

Wonderful performance as Women bring closure

Director Ruth Ahmed and the Tilbourne players presented a sensitive and stunning realisation of Deborah Breevort’s acclaimed play, The Women of Lockerbie, in Tilford’s intimate theatre, a fitting venue for such a profound piece. The set was a backdrop of draped muslin representing the brooding Scottish hills, wooden platforms depicted a stepped hillside with a single limb of a petrified tree. A creeping mist and low lighting completed the impressionist’s view of the hills of Lockerbie in December’s cold, still air.

Then, a melody, and a haunting voice (Clare Young singing ‘Bones in the Ocean’) laid hush. Her words sang of death, of loss and she confessed a survivor’s guilt. Music (Matthew Wells on melodeon, supporting Clare’s singing) was to punctuate the play, fostering calm and solemn reflection.

The story, set seven years after the disaster of the Lockerbie bombing, told of a group of Lockerbie women, led by Olive (Sara Wilson-Soppitt), who wanted to help bring closure, by washing the blood from the ruined clothes of the dead of Pan Am flight 103, before returning them to the families. The American authorities encompassed through one man, George Jones (Richard Ashton), refused.

An American woman, Madeline (Sarah Burch) had returned to search for any remains, any essence, of her son Adam. Her husband, Bill (Nigel Dams) has been unable to ease her grief or to release her of the guilt she felt in Adam’s passing. He had come in the hope of Madeline finding closure. Olive was closest to their loss; she understood their pain and shared their need for answers. These actors clearly knew the gravity of their task, for they played their parts with raw, authentic emotion. We witness their grief; we feel their pain.

However, there was respite as the Women of Lockerbie, in the form of a ‘Greek Chorus’, report their experiences of the crash without emotion, simply, disciplined and in stark contrast to the wretched, painful emotion Madeline could not contain, and the frustration and sadness Bill could not disguise. This respite was also achieved by the gentle humour of another of the Lockerbie women, the effervescent Hattie (Caroline Thompson).

The chorus of Lockerbie women (June Hegarty, Kathy Le Fanu and Vivienne Raeside) spoke in odes, of choice, of grief and of justice, they served to give the audience time to breathe, to reflect and to feel connected to the story. All this led us to believe that, as Olive says, “Hatred will not have the last word in Lockerbie”

In the final scene, as the women unbagged and washed the clothes. I swear I saw the blood and smelled the burning, I felt closer to a story than I have ever done. The play ended with the cast repeating the haunting song together, in harmony. It was a fitting, memorable end to a wonderful performance.

Alan Goodchild