Lockerbie: unfinished business

Friday, 3 September, 2010

Stark, strong, lonely

Edinburgh – Gilded Balloon – 4 – 30 Aug 10 – 14:30 (1.00)

Jim Swire's pursuit of justice for his daughter, dramatised here

Lockerbie: Unfinished Business tells the true story of the terrorist attack on an aeroplane in 1988, in which all passengers were killed on their way from Heathrow to New York. It is the story of one man’s quest for justice following the loss of his daughter, the obstacles in his way, and less overtly, yet profoundly, the effect that grief still has on him, 20 years later.

Captivating are the emotional outpourings of the protagonist, David Benson playing Jim Swire, father of a victim of the attack.   No stone is left unturned along the path he hopes will lead to justice.  In attempting to make public the inadequate policies, warped politics and bungled judgement applied to the Lockerbie bombing, he stumbles many a time, and often finds himself diverted, revealing that behind each fact and figure lies an aching personal loss, in this case, of a cherished young woman, Flora Swire, who was set for a career in neurology.

The performance, as the show itself, is stark, strong, and lonely.  There is very little in the way of setting or effects, leaving room for an intimate and interactive experience, and many will be moved to tears.  This is an impressive performance by David Benson, as he holds the stage, and audience attention, alone.  At times, lines are lost, and a little backtracking occurs, which is just about plausible given the highly charged emotional soliloquies.  Unfortunately less so when a date is corrected, as a father is unlikely to forget the day his daughter died, but David Benson may be forgiven for this, as he clearly has a lot of lines to remember, seldom pausing in an hour’s performance.  Overall, the effect is of a father who is genuinely struggling under the burden of his grief and the need to do something positive for his daughter.  He feels, rightly or wrongly, that never giving up on his quest for justice is his best offering.  This determination comes to rule his life, sometimes to the detriment of his remaining family.  

Although the most moving aspect of the show is the personal desire of a father to help his daughter in some way, his method of doing so is educational for many, who may be unaware of the intricacies of the case.  The subject matter is topical, as current news coverage talks of the Lockerbie bomber, released on grounds of ill health, going on to live another year.  Many will feel that they have learnt something through watching this show.  Others may feel that this is irrelevant, as information has not served justice for Swire.  Knowledge is not power, it is grief unending, and may upset younger audience members, or those who have suffered similar experiences.  Alternatively, some may find the overview of hard facts too broad, and want to learn more, finding the show simply too sentimental.

Whilst some may feel a little frustrated at the fruitless efforts of a lifelong quest, and debate whether or not its execution has brought Jim Swire any closer to peace, admiration for his strength of conviction is probable, and sympathy for his obvious grief is almost certain.  David Benson’s portrayal of Jim Swire is admirable in its sincerity.

Cast credits:  David Benson – Jim Swire.

Company credits:  Writer – David Benson. Director – Hannah Eidinow.

(c) Claire Higgins 2010

Reviewed Thursday 2nd September 2010


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