Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Brentwood Theater Company
Venue: Spotlites @ The Merchants’ Hall
"The shattering story of eight teenage boys who go to the California desert to kick back with beer and pot. Hours later, four are dead and the real story begins. This new play stunned audiences in Hollywood."
Not so much a play as a Government Health Warning aimed at a generation which has not been taught that there are boundaries to civilised social behaviour: freedom does not mean licence to unrestricted hedonism.
A well constructed, naturalistically performed and timely Warning however, especially aimed at teenagers, as to the dangers of reckless drinking, drug-taking and sexual activity and where it can lead. The Accident is based on a true and tragic story that happened in Orange County, California on July 29th 1995. Eight male teens piled into their car and headed for an overnight blast on beer and hash because they had nothing better to do. 8 left home 4 returned alive after a fearful crash when the drunk-driver lost control of the vehicle, 3 were fearfully injured, and the driver escaped with cuts and bruises.
Scene 1 is a Court Room and we hear the end of the tale at the begining: the rest of the evening recreated the steps that led to this moment of conviction.
We today are in the second and perhaps the third generation in which discipline, moderation and restraint is uncool. Self-gratification rules, social responsibility is out of the window, and James Anderson is in Court as much for his own lack of judgement and recklessness as for our own dereliction of our duty to bring up our children responsibly – yes we, the older generation, who should have stuck to the lessons our more ethic-centred parents taught us.
The Accident is balanced and the victims’ Parents in Court express views ranging from compassion for the driver and Christian forgiveness and awareness of the culpability of Society in general, to unrestrained revenge. The tragedy happened to pupils at the Brentwood School, West Los Angeles, who now perform this piece at the start of every school year. A fitting memorial to the dead and a good use of documentary drama could whose emotive power could well make a difference. Schools up and down the UK, who certainly do already use drama in this way to focus on issues in a non-didactic way, could well copy this model with a UK adapted script. And we the parent generation should heed the lesson ourselves as top-down example of social behaviour has been singularly lacking in the UK in recent decades.
Will politicians here ever have the guts to reintroduce strict laws on the sale, availability and pricing of alchohol, drugs and wanton sexual activity which cause such heartbreak? Has society in Britain perhaps already declined too far to legislate our way back onto the straight and narrow? Is legislation the answer anyway – what has happened to our ethical centre now the Church pussyfoots in the wings and the void is filled by so many with the God of Cunsumerism, self-indulgence and bling? Your reviewer is no advocate of stern Puritanism, but surely licence has gone too far. There are limits.
Well constructed, convincingly natural performances: not a play but an important and effective reminder.