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★★★★ review of Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage on Wales Online

★★★★ review of Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage on Wales Online

Here's the full review by Wales Online Arts Editor Karen Price.


It's easy to see why Hollywood star Mickey Rourke is keen to make a film about the life of former Welsh rugby international Gareth Thomas.

While he may have been a sporting hero for generations of fans, off the pitch he reached an all-time low as he struggled to come to terms with his sexuality.

But National Theatre Wales has beaten Rourke to it with this brilliant stage co-production with Out Of Joint.

And while Thomas' tale is at its heart, it also cleverly weaves in stories from troubled teenagers growing up in Bridgend, the town which was affected by a spate of young suicides.

Directed by Max Stafford-Clark and written by Robin Soans, the action unfolds against the backdrop of a rugby changing room.

Jerseys are hanging from hooks and the walls have inspirational words emblazoned across them - Endurance. Courage. Teamwork. Discipline. Sportsmanship. Family.

A cast of six - three men and three women - plays a host of characters between them and each takes on the role of Thomas.

This is something NTW has done before with The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning so it could have seemed a bit gimmicky this time round.

Instead it adds to the piece as you feel the sportsman is well represented at different junctures of his life - and a quick addition of a Welsh rugby jersey and a catch of a rugby ball means there isn't any confusion for audiences.

The story centres around Thomas' coming out so it is packed with plenty of emotion, particularly the poignant scenes in which he reveals to his beloved wife Jemma that he is gay. Your heart breaks for both of them.

And the first half of the drama comes to a powerful climax as the stories of Thomas and self-harming teenager Darcey (sympathetically portrayed by Lauren Roberts) mirror each other as they both contemplate suicide as they can no longer cope with their problems.

But this isn't all doom and gloom and it's peppered with some lovely moments of humour too. Rhys ap William and Bethan Witcomb are hilarious as Thomas' parents Baz and Vonnie, finishing off each other's sentences and providing a running social commentary on their son.

"I knew he was better because he was back on the Jaffa Cakes!" Vonnie quips after Thomas has been embraced by his teammates after coming out to them.

Yes there is plenty of darkness but overall this is an uplifting story of hope and there is an over-riding message about the importance of being true to yourself.

After a few site-specific pieces from NTW which didn't quite hit the mark, it's wonderful to see a more straight (no pun intended) piece of drama inside a traditional theatre which packs a real punch. Inspiring stuff.

To book your tickets for Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage at The Coliseum Aberdare ring the Box Office on 08000 147 111 or click here

categories: Coliseum General Park & Dare

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