The Mercury Players once again flipped the script on the term ‘amateur’ theatre during the dress rehearsal of The Women Of Lockerbie, which runs out of the Duncan Showroom from May 26 to June 4. A modest audience for the dress rehearsal on May 25 did not hold the players back from leaving it all out on centre stage.
Based on the 2005 book by Deborah Brevoort, Mercury Players regular Sylvia Swift takes the helm on directing this moving tale that is truly a triumph of love over hate as those stricken with life-altering grief find ways to push on through. Swift, who was recently honoured on May 21 with an award for best female actor for her work in Tempting Providence at the North Island Zone Festival in Campbell River, brings out the best in her ensemble who has been working on this production since 2020. This production transforms the intimate venue, creating a Celtic ambience with a backdrop of rolling hills and a babbling brook running through centre stage where seating would normally be. It transports audience members to Lockerbie, Scotland seven years after the fateful plane crash of Pan Am flight 103.
The story opens near a brook surrounded by rolling hills with Bill Livingston played by Adrian Ingham calling out for his wife Madeline, played brilliantly by Megan Bourns. Bourns roams the hills of Lockerbie in search of her son Adams’s remains. The Livingstons had made the trek from New Jersey to Scotland seven years after losing their son in hopes of finding answers, or more importantly, peace in the company of other families. While Madeline is off in the hills hell-bent on finding anything that she can tie to her son, Bill is met by Olive played by Shawnigan Players regular Jan Ovans who offers to help him search for his distraught wife: ‘I know these hills better than I know myself.’
The pair are soon joined by more women of Lockerbie who are catalysts for moving the story along in the style of a traditional Greek Theatre Chorus. This ensemble consists of Lisa Read, Bethanny Brooks, Margie Pringle, and Shauna Clinging. Audience members soon learn more details about the women, and the horrors they witnessed days before Christmas on Dec. 21, 1988 as metal, fire, and passenger body parts rained from the sky. The women are on a running clock with only eight hours to convince Mayor George Jones, played by Dan Lecky, to release the 11,000 articles of clothing that are stored in a warehouse on what’s coined the shelves of sorrow. Their persistence to have the clothing released so it can be laundered and returned to the families is met with constant resistance by Jones, who has his own marching orders. Their biggest hope is their inside woman, the warehouse’s feisty cleaning lady Hattie who is played by Leslie Sanchez. Lecky and Sanchez serve up a few comedic moments in a story that otherwise hits straight to the heart. I felt a lump in my throat, and a tear form in my eye on more than one instance throughout this deeply moving 90-minute production.
Not only does the the setting of the stage in this intimate venue leave audience members feeling like they are a part of the show as actors make entrances and exits through the crowd, there is an interactive component to the play as well. Battery operated tea lights line every seat, which those in attendance can light up, and hold as the vigil takes place. In an attempt to console the Livingstons, the women of Lockerbie offer truths such as; “Death is a guest whose visit is too short, while grief is one who stays too long.” These words will long linger with any audience member who knows loss and grief intimately as the characters in this play do.
Bourns and Ingram reel playgoers in with their portrayal of these two parents dealing with the devastating loss of their only child too soon. Bill’s character shares that while he has been holding back his grief since the tragedy, Madeline’s has been running rampant. Bill says that he has seen an ocean pour from his wife’s eyes. While I will alert you that having some tissue on hand is not a bad idea, you will get no other spoilers from me.
For enthusiasts of community theatre, this is a production not to be missed. It pulls at heartstrings, while hitting home the importance of choosing love over hate, and working though grief while reminding those that are struck by tragedy that they are not alone, even if the painful feelings are contrary. The Women of Lockerbie will run from June 1 to 3, at 7:30 p.m., with 2:30 p.m. matinees on June 3 and 4. General admission is $25, while students, and seniors can enjoy this production for $20. Tickets are available at Ten Old Books or online at eventbrite.ca or www.mercuryplayers.org.
The Women of Lockerbie speaks to the human condition, with the resounding message that no matter the tragedy, hate should not have the last word.