James Saunders   |   bibliography

Dog Accident  -  by James Saunders (1958)

Characters -


setting: a city street

time: late afternoon

published by Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1997
(Playforms - seven scripts for secondary drama - James Saunders and Robin Rook)
ISBN-10: 0521588588
ISBN-13: 978-0521588584
also contains Alas Poor Fred + The Old Man Who Liked Cats

"A naturalistic play is one that is written as if the story had happened in real life. In staging it, the actors will try to seem just like people one might meet outside the theatre. The extreme case of a naturalistic play would be one that would be mistaken for real life if it were performed in a real life setting.

In the theatre, even the most naturalistic play has to follow certain conventions. It has a dramatic 'shape' which real life doesn't have: for instance, a play has a beginning, a middle and an end whereas real life goes on and on; in a play, only the incident shown can be seen whereas in life things are happening simultaneously all over the world. A play therefore has to condense time and exaggerate effects; anything which is not relevant to the action is left out. The conventions are hidden but they are still there. Can you see them in Dog Accident?

No playwright wants simply to present a slice of life. The writer wants the play to do something to the audience, to involve its emotions or make it think in a particular way. What do you think were the playwright's intentions in Dog Accident? It shows how four young people might react to a commonplace situation, but it gives only one possibility. If you improvise the scene and react to it in your own way, it will be interesting to see how the course of events differs.

A version of Dog Accident was in fact performed some years ago in the street of a shopping area in Liverpool. The 'dog' was radio-controlled to whine and twitch. A small crowd gathered mostly at a distance, not wanting to risk getting involved in what was happening. Then some people came closer: one bystander entered into the dialogue, another covered the dog with a blanket before walking away. Someone called the police. When they arrived, the policemen were at first stern. ('What's going on here?') When told it was only a play, they became jolly. It was as if they had decided to act a different kind of policemen and, being in uniform, they knew that the audience - their audience now - was waiting to see how well they played their parts. Afterwards, the actors, the director and the author discussed whether they had cheated in pretending that the play was real. They decided that perhaps they had. Were they right? What do you think?"

(from Playforms - Cambridge University Press 1997)

"Any environment is a theatre. The more traffic (foot or motor) the better. Marble Arch is the best outdoor theatre in Britain. It is also the most expensive theatre set ever built.. It is also an obstruction to traffic that wants to go in a straight line from Park Lane to the Edgware Road without passing GO. It depends on how you look at it. When we performed James Saunders' Dog Accident! at Marble Arch, we used the fact that it is cut off by traffic to isolate our audience and lend credence to the fact that a dog could have been killed by the whirring cars."

(extract from Ed Berman's Afterword to "Fun Art Bus" - Eyre Menthuen 1973)

James Saunders   |   bibliography

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revised 16 February 2008
URL: http://www.jamessaunders.org/jsdogacc.htm