“The Women of Lockerbie” provides insights into grieving process


Since the days of antiquity, theater-goers have sought that connection between the world they inhabit and that world which is created upon the stage.  As it is with all art, theater reflects the stage-writer’s mind and interpretation of the world around them, which is brought to life by the actor’s performance, turning words into action.  Plays throughout the ages have provided insights into the world of that particular time and seek to provide moral instruction to the audience. From Sophocles’s “Antigone” to Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” this practice has been commonplace for almost the entirety of theater’s existence.

“The Women of Lockerbie” by Deborah Brevoort, put on by Redlands East Valley High School’s drama department, does not deviate from this trend.  The play is set in Lockerbie, Scotland on the night of Dec. 21, 1995, which is almost seven years after the Pam Am Flight 103 was tragically the victim of a terrorist attack that killed about 300 people.  

At the opening of the play, Bill Livingston, played by Ethan Manansala, is seen searching for his wife Madeline, played by Abby Kapadia, who is roaming the hills of Lockerbie looking for any remains of her son that died in the crash.  He is joined shortly by a group of four women and their leader Olive, played by Savannah Bruhn. He and Madeline learn that the an American official named George Jones, played by Riley Maiden, has ordered the possessions of those who died in the crash that were taken to be incinerated due to possible contamination from them.

Although the people of Lockerbie have offered to clean the clothes, George has refused to turn the possessions over to the families who lost a loved one in the tragedy.  The women and Olive both swear to the couple that this has not deterred them from trying to convince George to do the right thing. Later, when the women confront George, the audience learns that George actually sympathizes with the women.  He, however, does not want any more attention brought to the tragedy as he fears that it could become an international affair.

Despite George’s resolve, after the residents of Lockerbie express their grief openly by sobbing in front of the storage facility that holds victim’s belongings he finally concedes to their demands.  Bill and Madeline, however, are left saddened when they are unable to find anything that had belonged to their dearly departed son. This dark moment is quickly rectified as George presents them with a suitcase that he believes was their son’s.  Faces glowing warmly, the Livingston family quickly goes the suitcase and confirms that it really did belong to their son. With the problem being resolved, Bill and Madeline both help the women of Lockerbie clean the other possessions so that other families can feel the comfort they have felt.

Throughout the play, the issue of how grief is handled appears many times.  In the case of Bill, who does not outwardly show how his son’s death has impacted him, grief is ignored so that he can continue on with his life.  Although he feels he has moved on, he soon learns that he actually never confronted his son’s death, hiding behind a busy life. Madeline displays her anguish much more openly as she, despite having seven years to grieve, has never moved on.  Madeline’s character illustrates that, although a wound so deeply inflicted upon one’s own soul never truly heals, everyone must come to terms and continue on with their lives. It is what the departed would have wanted.

The issue that revolved around the possessions of those on the crash also contributes to this implicit discussion of loss.  The happiness displayed by the couple is the result of closure. They had finally received their son’s belongings and were able to find a sense of peace in the last remaining reminders of their son.  This allowed them to move on from the grief that had haunted them for those seven long years. Such is how it is in real life, where it is only through the closure and acceptance of a loved one’s death allows the family to move on.  

“The Women of Lockerbie” was an excellent and entertaining play that brought up many underlying issues that had to do with the natural process of grief.  Artfully performed, one could feel the emotions of those characters on the stage as they progressed through the story. Like all plays, it connected itself well to current issues found in society today, which is what allowed the audience to become fully emerged in another world for the duration of the performance.

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