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Road Safety - its dramatic

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 be about.
The 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."
That's 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.
"I 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, said Lyons.
“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."

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: UK