The Women of Lockerbie

Mon 8th – Fri 12th August 2011


Olivia Edwards

at 08:51 on 9th Aug 2011



The American High School Theatre Festival’s interpretation of The Women of Lockerbie is a solid, enjoyable, thought provoking school production but fails to measure up to the high standard of creative, ambitious student shows at the Fringe. Deborah Brevoort’s play looks at the effects of the Lockerbie bombing on both Americans and Lockerbie residents exactly seven years after the crash, mere hours before the victims’ clothes are due to be incinerated.

One of the main weaknesses of the production was that it failed to impose a creative interpretation on the Brevoort’s play; the show lacked directorial vision. Though lighting and sound was often used to good effect, the minimalism of the set led to many scenes taking place in an indistinct no-man’s land somewhere in Lockerbie. Moreover, although polo necks and winter coats are undoubtedly an appropriate costume for Scotland in December, the tartan scarves, skirts and waistcoats used to identify the Lockerbie residents was unnecessary and unimaginative. Most importantly, more characterisation work needs to be done to draw out individual personalities and add further touches of comedy to what is otherwise a very heavy-going production. The audience’s positive response to Trisha Molitor’s sparklingly witty interpretation of Hattie, the warehouse cleaning lady, demonstrates the power that strong characterisation can bring to a production. Had the directorial interpretation of the play been more original, more ambitious, the considerable talent of this student cast would have shone through much more brightly. Molitor had real stage presence and by the end of the production had the audience hanging off her every word; with a bit more work I think several other cast members (Karla Schneider, Hannah Salto) have the potential to be just as compelling to watch.

The cast of this American High School Theatre production were the best thing about the play, showing deep sensibility to the multiple layers of this tragic event in which both Americans and Scotsmen and women lost loved ones. Those playing women of Lockerbie made commendable attempts to sustain Scottish accents throughout and Krystal Heinen as Olive deserves particular mention for her command of the accent and her moving portrayal of a woman still deeply affected by the bombing and determined to find peace of mind. Reed Duncan played bereaved American father Bill Livingston with impressive maturity and gravitas; his monologue asking repeatedly ‘what do you say?’ to the women at the tills asking why he wants to return his son’s Christmas presents was particularly well delivered. Special mention must also go to Lindy Fischer as Madeleine Livingston, the stricken mother who lost her only child in the disaster. Her monologues are deeply affecting and for such a young actress she shows an understanding of the depth and intensity of grief far beyond her years.

The Women of Lockerbie is a production full of cast members capable of drawing out its potential and, with some more creative directorial guidance this show could be a fantastic school production.


Imogen Sarre

at 09:48 on 9th Aug 2011



Despite the darkly depressing nature of ‘The Women of Lockerbie’, the jollity of cast and audience beforehand cannot be denied. American High School Theatre Festival seems to bring plays over to Edinburgh in their hordes, providing a sort of mini Fringe all in itself. There was a real community feeling in Church Hill Theatre (where so many of the plays are being performed) – with proud parental-types and babbling teenagers creating the distinct impression that we were about to attend a school play – which, of course, we were. What makes rating this production difficult is that, although parents would (and should) be very proud of the quality of this performance and it was good in school show terms, by bringing it to the Fringe it must be marked alongside university, Free and professional productions.

‘The Women of Lockerbie’ is a play that shows the families still grieving seven years after the Lockerbie bombing, when a plane carrying American passengers was blown up, killing hundreds of people both within the plane and in the small Scottish town of Lockerbie where it fell. It is an almost bewilderingly difficult choice of play for a young cast to pull off, and it was astonishing that the topic was as sensitively handled as it was. Their attempt to address the cultural issues that arose from it was, in the main, handled very badly, with extremely dodgy Scottish accents, the simplistic addition of tartan clothing to denote Scottishness, and brief interludes of Scottish music deployed between scene changes.

However, although definitely school standard, characterisation was strong. I liked the gossipy ladies (Karla Schneider and Hannah Salto) who created a sense of close knit intimacy through both their grinning and mournful exchanges. Olive, played by Krystal Heinen, was convincingly concerned and go-getting; her emotional transition to anger near the end of the play was adeptly handled and particularly plausible when it could easily have felt forced and abrupt. Hattie, played by Trisha Moliter, had a good sense of comic timing and brough some welcome humour to the show in her exchanges with George Jones (BJ Welle) whose pathetically weak character was conveyed well. Reed Duncan’s performance as Bill Livingston was both heartfelt and gentle, particularly capturing the audeince’s sympathy as he outlined the distressing realities of returning his dead son’s Christmas presents. The distraught Madeline Livingston was perhaps the hardest part to play, but Lindy Fischer rose to the challenge well. Although her tone could grate a bit in its unflinching lack of variety, she showed the mad extent of grief and always commanded the audience’s attention onstage. After such a surprisingly mature performance, it was all the more disappointing to see her at the end, her arms and chest smothered with distractingly fake pinky paint, attempting to convey how she had wretchedly scratched at herself until she bled. This was an extremely poor directorial choice, exposing the piece’s lack of sophistication. Other decisions, such as the women alternately repeating one word (‘but’, ‘but’, ‘but’, or ‘no’, ‘no’, ‘no’) likewise detracted from the potency of moments to such an extent that the whole thing became faintly ridiculous – a real shame and, hopefully, something that can be easily remedied. With its highs and lows, this was very definitely a school production, but one that captured and held my interest for the full hour and twenty minutes – and providing that level of entertainment value should be commended.


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