On the eve of one of the most important games of his career, Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas received a warning: The Sun newspaper was going to “out” him as gay. Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage – a new play about the player and the town that made him – touches down in the Courtyard Theatre at West Yorkshire Playhouse this month.
This is the story of two Welsh names bruised, but not beaten, by media speculation; Gareth “Alfie” Thomas, 100 caps for Wales, once its captain, now the world’s most prominent gay sportsman; and his hometown, Bridgend.
Working with Alfie himself, and young people in Bridgend, two of the UK’s most exciting theatre companies – National Theatre Wales and Out of Joint – have teamed up to tell a great story about sport, politics, secrets, life and learning to be yourself.
Director Max Stafford-Clark says: “I’m always on the lookout for stories, and the story of the so-called epidemic of teenage suicides in Bridgend lodged in my mind. And I knew Gareth Thomas had played for Bridgend so when he came out as gay three years later I associated the two stories. In addition I am a keen rugby fan and my Welsh friends moan about the demise of the old great Welsh clubs. After all, as recently as 1981 Bridgend had beaten Australia! Here was a town whose story must be told.”
Max Stafford-Clark co-founded Joint Stock Theatre Group in 1974 following his Artistic Directorship of the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. From 1979 to 1993, he was Artistic Director of the Royal Court Theatre, after which he founded Out of Joint. His work as a director has overwhelmingly been with new writing, commissioning and directing first productions from writers including Sue Townsend, Timberlake Wertenbaker, Mark Ravenhill, Andrea Dunbar, David Hare and Caryl Churchill.
Writer Robin Soans is celebrated for his documentary, verbatim plays based on interviews with real people, including Out of Joint’s acclaimed shows Mixed Up North, A State Affair and Talking to Terrorists, which was nominated for Best Play at the TMA awards and has been performed overseas including in Tehran.
The all-Welsh cast includes Patrick Brennan, Katie Elin-Salt, Daniel Hawksford, Lauren Roberts, Rhys ap William and Bethan Witcomb.
Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage is at the West Yorkshire Playhouse from 31st March – 4th April 2015. For tickets book online at wyp.org.uk or call the Box office on 0113 213 7700.