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David Benson's Feelings On Media Coverage of Lockerbie: Unfinished Business

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I am sitting alone in my festival flat writing this in a rather strange state of mind. In fifteen minutes or so, onto the nation’s screens will flicker images of me performing my show, Lockerbie: Unfinished Business a couple of days ago at the Gilded Balloon in Edinburgh. Then the lips of Kirsty Wark will speak my name and then she and her studio critics – Stella Duffy, A. L. Kennedy, Natalie Haynes and Paul Morley - will pass judgement on my work. I will not be watching. Nothing would induce me. Suppose they fall upon it like dogs and tear it to shreds? Worse, what if they damn it with feint praise; or if, in a general chorus of approval, one well-honed, withering dart punctures my relief and sends me into paroxysms of tortured self-doubt and shame? This is why I don’t read reviews anymore (unless they are shoved under my nose and then it has hard not to peek). It’s too vexing. My mental health is much more buoyant when I have neither their praise nor their blame knocking round my head.

It’s sheer cowardice I know, but that’s the way it is. I have learned from bitter experience. It is a truism to say it but it is the bad reviews that stay with you for life, haunting your creative reveries and poisoning the source of your inspiration with doubt. Even good reviews can louse you up. You start to become conceited and to love your own brilliance too much and to start expecting things like awards and the possibility that people might offer you work and money and even the chance to act on television again. Then once again, you must relearn the old lesson: be happy without these things.

So it is better not to go there and just do your job and pretend there is nothing else of any importance out there.

Actually the thing I worry most about in this is not the critical reaction so much as remembering my lines. I live in terror of ‘drying’ as we say: suddenly finding your head absolutely empty, no words to say or almost as bad, words you have already said being said again. I am becoming more confident now, seeing as how the press has allegedly been good and no one has yet sent me a poison pen letter or stood up during the show and screamed. Yet! I don’t rule it out.

What pleases me most about the whole thing is that, whatever they may say, I am happy with the show, I take pride in representing a man of Dr. Jim Swire’s integrity and humanity on stage and of doing my bit to challenge the torrent of cynical nonsense that gurgles from the mouths of just about every Western politician on the subject of Lockerbie and the release of Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi.

One last thing: I could not do any of it without the support and encouragement of my producer James Seabright and his (best-ever?) team at Festival Highlights this year! Too many to name, you know who you are!


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