Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage

Written by Robin Soans
Produced by Max Stafford Clark for National Theatre of Wales and Out Of Joint
Liverpool Playhouse
21st April - 25th April 2015

Review by Colin Serjent

The play combines the tragic events in Bridgend, where there were a series of teenage suicides, dating from 2007 (some suggesting they were influenced by the dark power of social media), and the reluctance of Gareth 'Alfie' Thomas, the captain of the Welsh rugby union side, to declare he was gay.

It is set in a large sports dressing room where benches act as hospital beds, seats in the stadium, therapy treatment tables and comfy settees.

The script, laced with vernacular language, draws upon real-life interviews of those who tried to but failed to commit suicide, and the musings of Thomas himself.

But many were not so fortunate to survive self destruction. Between 2007-2012 79 people died by suicide, many of them aged between 13-years-old and 17-years-old, and often by hanging themselves.

A fascinating aspect of the character of Thomas on stage was that he was portrayed at various points by all of the six actors, male and female, young and middle-aged. Surprisingly it proved effective, as if you were listening to someone else's views of oneself.

They recounted his rise to fame - to be perfectly honest I had never previously known about him before seeing this play - I follow football which uses a round ball! - as a highly rated player, to the time when, after much soul searching, he openly declared his sexuality.

He became the first professional rugby union player to publicly acknowledge he was gay. Until that time the gutter press had incessantly hounded him to the point where he seriously considered doing away with himself.

I am not sure whether the two storylines are directly linked together - -there was far more emphasis on the Thomas story - other than they originated in Bridgend, but nevertheless it was a very watchable piece of theatre work.

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