crouch touch pause engage
Written by Robin Soans
Directed by Max Stafford-Clark
Monday 23rd February
I’ve recently joined the National Theatre Wales TEAM panel. This provides me the opportunity to get more involved with live events in Wales, as well as supporting and encouraging the artistic scene in my hometown of Wrecsam. Anyone can join the TEAM community here and I’d highly recommend people working in the creative industries, especially in Wales, get involved. Opportunities are posted on the online noticeboard that might not be found elsewhere - and it’s free to join.
Over to the theatre - it’s one of my first events since joining the TEAM panel and I am at Sherman Cymru for the packed press night of crouch touch pause engage, a play about Bridgend rugby legend Gareth ‘Alfie’ Thomas and his struggle to tell the world he’s gay.
The play is a biopic (or at least that’s what they call it in ‘the movies’), this isn’t such a problem but (and again you’ll notice my references are mostly film based) I tend to struggle with this genre because the writer and director need to convey a lot of information in a relatively short time, which creates an interesting dilemma: be true to life and bang on for hours or edit and embellish to produce an interesting story.
The only films of this genre I’ve found successful are Walk the Line and Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life. The latter being a triumph of writing and direction as it weaves in-and-out of multiple fantasy elements with our protagonist’s alter-ego The Mug dancing through numerous scenes.
Crouch touch creates some of this magic: Alfie’s narrative is ‘thrown’ between cast members who run deftly with it alongside dark stories of other Bridgend families. This all makes for interesting viewing (I drop the ball a number of times, but hey, I don’t want to be spoon-fed either). The story plays out across a backdrop of a town losing jobs, rugby roots and ultimately its identity. I initially think this historical element is a necessary retelling, but I chat after the show with people who have witnessed (versions of) this story a number of times, and I am left divided.
Regardless of this the drama punches hard. I feel emotional at more than one point, with sharp, intense bursts of laughter sparking through the darkness in the way only flinty working class Welsh humour can.
This is a ‘biopic’, and wordy with it. There’s no getting around that. But is it good theatre? Am I moved by the stories? Do I care about the characters? The answer to all of this is yes.
To sum up, crouch touch is not genre-defying theatre, but it is an interesting biography performed with passion and told in a way that remains true to the people it represents - and you don’t need to be a rugby fan to enjoy it.
Crouch touch pause engage is touring Wales in March 2015 visit National Theatre Wales website for tickets. #ntwAlfie
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