The Accident – A play not to be missed

Larry Thomas, bottom left, playwright and director of The Accident, watches a scene unfold during rehearsal at the USP creative space. Picture: SUPPLIED

If you miss The Accident, which premiers next week (May 24), you will be missing a stunning reminder of “us”; an extraordinary collection of exchanges that is remarkable in its reflection of Fiji and her Fijians today, punctuated by references to the colonial past we share, digging deep into roots of racism.

It has been a while since I sat in at a rehearsal. The rollercoaster of emotions belied the stark stage, as line after line reminded me of our trajectory as a nation, but more importantly, of conversations that we may all have had, in one form or another, in the privacy of our homes.

Larry Thomas brings it all to the table in The Accident, as he always did, and as we have all come to expect.

This play is as thought-provoking as it is catalytical for some navel gazing, in the more positive sense of course.

Thomas makes weaving one’s national historical milestones and its impact on our daily lives today look easy. An accident is a mere prop if you will, stimulating questions and conversations on identity.

What indeed is our collective identity and culture as siblings in a melting pot that is Fiji?

The emotions the four actors carry onto the stage is palpable: Salote and her fiancé Rahul, her father, Ratu Peni and Rahul’s mother, Sharmila, collectively bring to the foreground questions and conversations which, for the most parts, are uttered guardedly behind closed doors.

The Accident is a play about memories and remembering. It is a play that underlines relationships, with families and with society.

Thomas began to mull over what became The Accident from media reports of fatal accidents: not so much the accidents per se but the impact it had on those left behind, both for the driver who merely cops a fine or a suspended sentence, and family members who must now deal with a life-changing event, while learning to live without a sibling, a parent, etc at the same time.

“There is always a cause and effect,” Thomas explains.

“We need to know that whatever hurt or damage we do, there is always an effect and often we neglect to remember that.

“A good play asks questions. It triggers various emotions .. it may not necessarily have the answers, but it is often cause for reflection.”

Tickets are available from the USP Book Centre and will also be at the door. You can catch The Accident between May 24 to 28.

This is the 12th play for Thomas who is the acting director of the Oceania Centre of Arts Culture and Pacific Studies at the University of the South Pacific.

Thomas enjoyed drama and literature in high school.

He credits Chilean, Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden as a memorable, impactful play that had a profound effect on him, and August Wilson, the African American playwright, as his inspiration. When Thomas began “writing”, there wasn’t even a “creative industry” here at home.

Acknowledging the pockets of institutional support for our creative industry, Thomas agrees that governments and universities need to do more to support training and financial incentives, and ensuring a platform and/or “space” for artists.

The first play Thomas directed was Moon on a Rainbow Shawl by the Trinidadian writer Errol John in 1980.

He followed this with Vilsoni Hereniko’s play, A Child for Iva and Sera’s Choice. In 1988, he directed his first play, Just Another Day.

Of his 12 plays, two were co-written in iTaukei with Apolonia Tamata, Lakovi and Nai Lululu, and one with Ian Gaskell, called The Meke which premiered at the Festival of Pacific Arts in Palau in 2004.

His play, The Visitors premiered at the Festival of Pacific Arts in American Samoa in 2008.

In 1992, Thomas was invited to be Artist in Residence at the California Lutheran University in Los Angeles, where he directed his play, Men, Women and Insanity.

His play Outcasts has been translated into French and performed at the Jean Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre in Noumea, New Caledonia.

Yours Dearly was translated into Arabic and performed in the West Bank in Jerusalem.

Thomas taught Literature and Theatre Arts at USP before joining the Pacific Community (SPC) as manager of the Regional Media Centre and was producer of the long running television program, The Pacifi c Way.

His documentaries among others include Compassionate Exile on the leprosarium in Makogai, A Race for Rights on the 2000 coup in Fiji and Bittersweet Hope on the expiry of sugar cane land leases in Fiji.

  • ARIELA ZIBIAH is a freelance media and strategic communications practitioner and a full-time student. The views expressed are those of the author’s and do not reflect the views of this newspaper.

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