By Cpl. Diego Bunuel
First published in
SFOR Informer #96, September 13, 2000
Sanski Most - Soldiers often have as much desire to
attend lectures as they do to visit the dentist for a root canal.
But several hundred British soldiers in Bosnia recently got a different
and unusual experience of what a road safety awareness class could
Walking Forward Theater Company, contracted for the British military
by Master Driver Gerry Smith for five shows in as many camps in Bosnia
and Croatia, held one of their presentations in Sanski Most for the
Chestnut Company of the 1st Royal Horse Artillery Regiment.
Because the primary cause of death among SFOR soldiers in Bosnia is
traffic accidents, said Smith, bringing in an alternative method to
push the point across appealed to him.
"When I first saw their play I was taken aback and I though it
would be great for other soldiers," he said.
But that point didn't seem to come across immediately for the 120
soldiers of the Chestnut Company who trudged into the maintenance
building where the play was to take place.
"Nine out of 10 guys you have in front of you have been ordered
to be there," said Jake Lyons, the play's lead actor. "They
hate you the moment you get on stage because they would rather be
watching a game."
why director Gavin Payne, wrote the play - based on a personal experience
he's had with a friend - in a very televisual style.
"I had to write this for a non-theater going audience and make
it a user-friendly show," Payne said.
The cast of three men and two women, all twenty-somethings, connected
immediately with the audience. The plot is pretty much like a TV sitcom,
the lives and romances of the characters mixed with a strong road
safety theme. Their friendship eventually dissolves after a violent
accident changes the lives of one of them.
"Our approach was to make something non-patronizing," said
Lyons. "We are dealing with a difficult subject but we inject
a lot of humour that counter points the tragedy."
But the real intelligence behind the play is the way the actors make
the transition from the play to the discussion session, by transforming
the passive audience into a Jerry Springer Show and getting the soldiers
to express their opinions on the way the different characters behaved.
liked it because it's not like the usual discussions that are really
boring," said Gunner Philip Faulconbridge, 19. "The show
was basically the situation me and him (pointing to a friend) find
ourselves in when we are at home driving back from work."
Gunner Marc Jones, 20, said he crashed two cars.
"Seeing myself in a wheelchair, it was a good way of putting
the point across," Jones said.
But the play in itself is only one portion of a road safety package,
We don't deal with facts and figures, we bring the human side
out," he said. "We don't go for shock tactics, we give the
soldiers an experience to change their attitude toward speed and driving."
Nations of SFOR: UK