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Lockerbie play draws attention at Edinburgh Fringe
Question of the Day
Britain’s economic uncertainty and painful memories of the 1988 Lockerbie airplane bombing are somber undercurrents at the raucous Edinburgh Fringe, a vast buffet of performance, standup, theater and music that opened Friday.
The Fringe, which has helped launch the careers of everyone from Hugh Laurie to Russell Brand, offers more than 2,400 shows in 259 venues, from theaters and comedy clubs to pubs, a playground, a parking lot and a hanging restaurant suspended 100 feet (30 meters) in the air.
“It can be overwhelming at first,” said Sarah Metcalfe, one of hundreds of eager artistes thrusting leaflets at passers-by along the Royal Mile, a series of teeming cobbled streets flanked by solid gray stone buildings.
The similarity lies in the vibrant atmosphere, rather than in Edinburgh’s gray weather and Gothic architecture.
Amid the creative mayhem, organizers are bracing to see whether ticket sales will be hurt by Britain’s battered economic state. And one attention-grabbing show is asking audiences to revisit a raw and divisive subject: the Lockerbie bombing.
The attack on a New York-bound jet over a small town, just 60 miles (100 kilometers) from here, killed 270 people, many of them American.
The tragedy moved back into the headlines a year ago, when the Scottish government released the Libyan convicted of the bombing, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi. His release infuriated relatives of many Lockerbie victims, especially those in the United States.
Al-Megrahi, who has cancer, was freed on compassionate grounds after doctors said he had three months to live. A year later he is still alive, which ensures the wound remains open.
The play is based on an unpublished memoir by Jim Swire, a British doctor who lost his daughter in the attack. Swire has become well known in Britain for his campaign to prove that al-Megrahi was wrongly convicted and that evidence points to Iranian-backed Palestinian militants as the perpetrators.
“He is engaged in a single-minded mission to get justice for his daughter, Flora,” said Benson, a Fringe veteran who has created plays about Noel Coward, Samuel Johnson and the death of Princess Diana. “He can’t rest knowing the men who did it are still at large.”
Benson knows many disagree with Swire, but hopes dissenters will come see the show, which offers both a _ somewhat patchy _ lesson in murky recent history and a moving depiction of Swire’s restrained, intense, very British grief _ he hides his pain with a stiff upper lip, but at memories of his daughter it quivers.
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