Review: The Accident – what went wrong?

 

The Accident. Photographer: Warren Orchard.

Dylan Wyn Williams

On a cold dark October eve, armed with a cuppa and feet up, I was ready for a rare creature on the box. A Wales-set drama shown across the UK.

No, not the one with Eve Myles and the irritating soundtrack. Rather, an emotionally charged four-parter about a community coming to terms with an industrial accident, and the families cry for justice as per Aber-fan, Zeebrugge, Grenfell.

I had already written a mostly positive piece about The Accident to the Welsh-language weekly Golwg and urged my friends and colleagues to tune in. Half an hour later, my tea was still untouched.

I felt uneasy. Baffled. This wasn’t the same drama I saw at the London preview. My WhatsApp jingled: “Hmmm. Not feeling it so far, Dyl!!” Others were conspicuous in their silence. I was embarrassed. Had I recommended a turkey?

On second viewing, the quibbles that niggled me at the première became clearer. The google-translated banner at the St David’s Day Fun Run (Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant – Rhedeg). The wince-inducing “boyo” spoken by Kai Owen’s character. The rescuers venturing into the ruins with a sparking grinder despite fears of a gas leak. The solemn crowd’s “Abide with Me”, whereas the clichéd Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer would’ve rung truer.

And the accents. Mowredd, those accents. The twitteratis were tamping.

Rewind to the end of September, and to the official launch in Soho (free coffee and croissants obligatory, air kisses not). Most of the cast in situ (Sarah Lancashire! Sidse Babett Knudsen of Borgen fame!) the camera made good use of the Rhondda Fach, Blaengarw and Fochriw locations, the CGI explosion racking up the tension, that shocking domestic violence scene, the crew’s obvious warmth towards the locals.

The press launch

As the Executive Producer George Ormond said:

“This is our second production based in Wales – our first was Kiri, also by Jack Thorne… Jack is also half Welsh and we knew from the off that The Accident would be set in a small valleys town.”

Jack Thorne, the Bristolian behind the Channel 4 trilogy examining the themes of guilt, blame, responsibility and culpability in modern Britain. I was eagerly awaiting a series in which my country didn’t pretend to be Holby city, planet Gallifrey or something or other with dӕmons.

 

Excruciating

It’s a crying shame that The Accident consists of outsiders pretending to be Welsh plus a plethora of English lawyers from the Alun Cairns school of casting. BAFTA-laden Sarah Lancashire from Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax confessed that the accent was testing:

“I did a lot of work on it. A lot. It was really challenging. It was awful. In fact, we started filming this in April and just to give you an indication of how long it took me, I had my Christmas dinner speaking in a Welsh accent as I started last November.”

Not that she had much say in the matter, as Jack Thorne explained:

“… I wrote it with her in mind and once it was finished I sent it to her and held my breath and thankfully she said yes.”

Sarah Lancashire and Joanna Scanlan in The Accident. Photographer: Warren Orchard

It could have been worse. As in a Monica Dolan kind-of-worse, with her comedy Leanne Wood-cum-Indian accent in W1A or Tom Hardy’s baffling Locke. And lest we forget the Irish American How Green Was My Valley (1941).

But it could and should have been so, so much better. The scenes between Harriet Paulsen (Sidse Babett) and her wooden PR toyboy are pretty excruciating. And it’s not as if we’re a dearth of actors. S4C has just celebrated its 37th year, and many of its alumnus have found worldwide fame. Less ‘praise the lord! we are a musical nation’, more of a nation of fantastic bilingual performers.

Think Iwan Rheon (Game of Thrones), Erin Richards (Gotham City), Rhys Ifans (Official Secrets) and Matthew Rhys (The Americans and the new Perry Mason for HBO) who surprised his US fans last year after accepting his Emmy award in his native accent.

And yet, here we are in 2019, with London drama commissioners (or soon-to-be-Leeds in Channel 4’s case) ignoring our homegrown talent, apart from the excellent Jade Croot of Merthyr. Eiry Thomas has been criminally underused as the grieving single mam too.

Despite all its faults, I’m still watching, along with 2 million others. Mostly mesmerized by the performances of deaf actress Genevieve Barr and Lancashire, and seeing how the court scenes plays out.

But on the whole, a disappointing case of nid da lle gellir gwell.

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Gaynor
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Gaynor

Started watching ep 1, LASTED 15 MINS, BORING, let alone the plastic taffs,appaling . Reflects the contempt and patrionising attitude of the media, including our own BBC Wales whose target audience are fans of Carol Voderman and people who like watching naff programmes about the valleys painting us all as leak kunching, rugby mad twps

CapM
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CapM

Looks to me like there’s an established process for these productions. 1. Write a generic drama. 2. Sign up some big, or at least familiar to an English audience, usually English actors for the lead and main parts. 3. Go around the various parts of the UK selling the idea and negotiating the best support package. 4. Select most favouable package from a needy and undiscerning regional/national authority/organisation. 5. Tweak script to fit chosen “region’s” setting but don’t waste time and money on authenticity or accuracy as the audience outside the “region” will not know or care anyway. 6, Hire… Read more »

Gaynor
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Gaynor

^yes really interesting how so many London production companies have now opened cardiff offices and are hoovering up commissions from BBC Wales and S4c….. (makes opening a HQ in Carmarthen totally pointless.) License payers money now goes over the border and we get rubbish programmes , thats what you get with intellectual pygmies at the helm of our Welsh institutions

henacynflin
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Spot on.

Dave Brooker
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Dave Brooker

They would have picked leads that people have heard of so as to attract viewers, hard to believe, but true, not everything is a. English conspiracy against the Welsh

Gaynor
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Gaynor

Not a conspiracy, just cultural imperialism and narrow minded ignorance, bearing in mind many Welsh actors sich as Matthew Rhys has probably accrued wider global recognition than the barmaid from corrie , although she is usually quite a good actress, but not in this…. very hammy

Dave Brooker
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Dave Brooker

Perhaps Catherine zeta Jones and Ivor the engine were busy?

Dave
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Dave

Those chips on both shoulders must make walking difficult up all those Welsh hills

Gaynor
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Gaynor

Nothing like yours

Anthony Whiteside
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Anthony Whiteside

It was truly awful. Badly acted (OK, Genevieve Barr was decent), even Sarah Lancashire struggled here and underacted with a lot of mumbling. Some of the scenes were actually embarrassing to watch. Terrible.

Elaine Brown
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Elaine Brown

I had high hopes of this drama. I watched the first episode with reservations and the hope that it would get better – it didn’t. The second one was deleted halfway through and the rest binned. They continuity and writing were rubbish, there was no empathy for the characters at all and, at times, it felt like a bewilderingly bad comedy. Thumbs down.