Posts Tagged ‘Bridgend’

This is such a heart warming, hopeful play and so much more than the story of Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas coming out. Robin Soans verbatim piece links his story with the Bridgend teenage suicides and the economic woes of South Wales post-pit closures to produce something that is moving and entertaining in equal measure.

In addition to Thomas’ own testimony, Soans includes the words of his mother, father and best friend Compo and recognises the contributions of former Welsh coach Scott Johnson and fellow players Martyn Williams and Steve Jones. The teenage stories of survivors Darcey and Meryl are interwoven and we also meet Bridgend MP Madeleine Moon and Neil Kinnock. It’s extraordinary how the stories feel as if they belong together – the man and his home town, both bruised, both hounded by the paparazzi and the gutter press, but both survivors with their dignity intact, with laudable support from families, friends, colleagues and communities, moving on by helping others.

Robin Soans editing of his interviews and Max Stafford-Clark’s impeccable direction, with movement by Frantic Assembly’s Scott Graham, brings out the humour and humanity of the stories. It hops around in time and between the stories yet it seems completely cohesive. Six actors – Rhys ap William, Patrick Brennan, Katie Elin-Salt, Daniel Hawksford, Lauren Roberts and Bethan Whitcomb – play the principal roles plus all others, each taking turns at playing Gareth Thomas. They engage you in eye contact, which makes you feel as if the story is being told to you personally.

It brought more than one tear to my eye, but I left the Arcola on a real high, more than a little bit proud to be Welsh. Three of Britain’s most exciting theatre companies have come together to produce something very special indeed. Don’t miss it.

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