Last week, I received a cryptic email from the English Department – one sentence long – emphatically praising the “extraordinary” After the Accident, and encouraging us to all go and see it. So when Exeposé asked for a review of the play, I felt obliged to take a chance on this relatively small performance – and I wasn’t disappointed.
While you were all probably still preparing for Cheeseys, I set out into the cold night in search of the Bike Shed Theatre. When I arrived, I was surprised to find a large lounge and bar, full of sofas and happily-chatting people: if you haven’t yet been to this quaint little theatre, with its brick walls and artsy vibe, I’d strongly suggest you take a look. But it was the performance itself which stood out for me.
After the Accident follows the repercussions of a car crash which happened four years previously, in which young joy-rider Leon recklessly collided with a family car containing father Jimmy and his young daughter, resulting in her death. The play uses flashbacks brilliantly, showing the aftermath of the event, and actress Rebecca Hulbert’s hysterical crying was impressively (and often painfully) real. The father’s repressed guilt is also crucial to the play, with the discussions eventually leading to his admission that he hates himself “every day” for letting his daughter drive in the front seat. Clearly, this isn’t a simple, black-and-white comparison between the ‘good’ parents and the ‘evil’ hooligan, and for that reason Leon is also given a voice: a chance to apologise.
The plot focuses primarily on Restorative Justice, when victims and offenders meet to discuss the consequences of crimes. As the play notes, this isn’t about forgiveness – it’s about empowerment, and the chance for some emotional relief. When the characters finally meet, Petra’s shouting is packed with venom, but we soon realise that even Leon, skilfully acted by Danny Mellor, deserves some sympathy: the more the play progresses, the more obvious it becomes that he is just a naïve, cocky lad, caught up in his own stupidity.
Overall, the production was stylistic and pared-back, and the small stage – often containing just three chairs – lent itself excellently to a ‘living room’ atmosphere. The script was poetic at times, especially during the heartfelt monologues which occur amongst the drama, but I was especially impressed by the unique use of awkward silences and purposeful eye-contact with the audience, making us all appropriately uncomfortable.
Although the screen in the background was occasionally too distracting, and the characters were sometimes too stereotypical, the strong acting managed to ensure that this short, inherently shocking play will stay with me for a long time to come.
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