Writer: Robin Soans
Director: Max Stafford-Clark
Reviewer: Jacqui Onions
Crouch Touch Pause Engage tells the story of Gareth ‘Alfie’ Thomas, the first openly gay professional rugby player and mirrors his story with events in his home town of Bridgend. We follow his inner struggles with great feeling and tenderness, and those of the people from his home. The thorough research that writer Robin Soans has put into the script is highly evident. The cast each take it in turns to take on the rôle of Alfie but regardless of who is playing the rôle the real man’s voice and personality shine through, and this is testament to the quality of both the writing and the acting. Having the actor playing Alfie at any given time wearing a Welsh rugby shirt is a nice touch but even if you closed your eyes you would easily pick out Alfie’s voice.
This may be a moving story with some real dark times, but it is told with a wonderful and realistic sense of humour which is pitched perfectly in the script and delivered with superb comic timing by the whole cast.
The set, designed by Angela Davies, puts one in mind of a rugby club changing room but with the move of a bench adapts to become school, home, hospital, wherever Alfie’s life takes us. Davies also designed the costumes which do well to subtly point changes in the many characters each actor plays without taking away from the quality of acting on display. Ultimately, it is down to the cast of six to create and differentiate between the many people that we meet along the journey and they do this with ease.
Every performance in Crouch Touch Pause Engage is incredibly natural and hugely believable. Rhys ap William and Bethan Witcomb have a wonderful chemistry as Alfie’s parents and finish each other’s sentences with expert timing. Lauren Roberts is outstanding as teenager Darcey, portraying the character’s mental health problems with great empathy and honesty. Patrick Brennan, Katie Elin-Salt and Daniel Hawksford make up this incredibly strong ensemble and all six performers play Alfie himself brilliantly.
If you are not a rugby fan then do not be put off. It helps to truly empathise with the piece if you have a knowledge of Welsh rugby, but this is by no means essential as this play is ultimately about people and would be thoroughly enjoyable for anyone.
Runs until 7th March 2015.