CROUCH, TOUCH, PAUSE, ENGAGE
by Robin Soans.
Out of Joint/National Theatre Wales/Arcola Theatre Tour to 20 June 2015.
Runs 1hr 55min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 5 March.
Fact, feeling and theme strongly united.
Six single words are written around the walls of Angela Davies’ changing-room set of Robin Soans’ new compilation of interviews and conversations for Max Stafford-Clark’s latest Out of Joint tour. Each expresses a positive human quality. Three are essentially individual; the other three have communal associations. It’s a good mix for a piece equally about an individual and a society.
Gareth Thomas, born near Bridgend, captained the Wales rugby team. Nicknamed ‘Alfie’ in his youth when someone noticed a similar appearance to an American TV sitcom character, he became aware, as Soans’ script economically and clearly explains, that he wasn’t responding as other lads were to female and male bodies.
His inner emotional metabolism became a major matter when he became the country’s leading Rugby player. Media-hounds suspected and intruded – putting the scum in scrum. How he handled the dilemma is one aspect of Crouch, Touch. The other is the communal press hounding of Bridgend. An unassuming town pushed by planners towards becoming an urban dump, it was labelled, named and shamed as a disastrous place to live, and a probable one to die, with every suicide in the area being added to the town’s total.
Journalists came, saw what they wanted and exaggerated. This play listens to real voices, individuals who together compose the place. Beng about a community as well as an individual, and seeing a single actor playing Thomas would focus attention on impersonation, the action has everyone playing Alfie, male and female, wearing a rugby shirt when performing the part, passing it on as a new actor becomes Alfie – teamwork. The wisdom of this is shown when the character of Neil Kinnock appears, noticeably altering the dynamic.
Serious though it is, there’s humour, with a chatty character showing her prized belongings to the front row. And it outs Stafford-Clark as a lifelong rugby enthusiast, besides revealing once again, in the scrupulously-detailed performances, his refusal to accept any empty emotion. This makes the final optimism, when Thomas emerges, with team-mates’ support, from his anxieties and can begin helping other young Bridgenders resolve their dilemmas, genuinely heart-warming.
Neil Kinnock: Alfie/Patrick Brennan.
Alfie/Meryl: Katie Elin-Salt.
Alfie/Jason/Compo: Daniel Hawksford.
Alfie/Darcey: Lauren Roberts.
Alfie/Baz: Rhys ap William.
Alfie/Vonnie: Bethan Witcomb.
Director: Max Stafford-Clark.
Designer: Angela Davies.
Lighting: Katy Morison.
Sound: Dylan Jones.
Movement: Scott Graham.
Assistant director: Rachael Boulton.
10-14 Mar 7.30pm Aberystwyth Arts Centre 01970 623232 www.aberystweythartscentre.co.uk
17-20 Mar 7.30pm Captioned Wed Neuadd Ogwen Bethesda 01248 382828 www.pontio.co.uk
24-25 Mar 7.30pm Mat Wed 1pm The Coliseum Aberdare 08000 147111 www.rct-arts.org
26, 28 Mar 7.30pm Mat Sat 1.30pm Sony Theatre Bridgend College 01656 302302
31 Mar-2; 4 Apr 7.45pm Mat Thu 2pm; Sat 2.30pm Captioned Wed West Yorkshire Playhouse Leeds 0113 213 7700 www.wyp.org.uk
8-11 Apr 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Palace Theatre Watford 01923 225671 www.watfordpalacetheqatre.co.uk
14-18 Apr 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Gulbenkian Centre (Donald Roy Theatre) University of Hull 01482 466141 www2.hull.ac.uk
21-25 Apr Tue; Thu-Sat 7.30pm Wed 5.30pm Mat Thu 1.30pm, Sat 2pm Captioned Sat 2pm Liverpool Playhouse 0151 709 4776 www.everymanplayhouse.com
27 Apr ? Felsted School 01371 822619 firstname.lastname@example.org.
28-29 Apr 7.45pm Stahl Theatre Oundle 01832 273930 www.oundleschool.org.uk/arts/theatre/tickets.php
30 Apr 7.30pm The Leys School (Great Hall) Cambridge www.theleys.net/boxoffice
1 May 7.30pm Lincoln Performing Arts Centre 01522 837600 www.lpac.co.uk
5-9 May 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm Northcott Theatre Exeter 01392 493493 www.exeternorthcott.co.uk
20 May-20 June M0n-Sat 7.30pm (no performance 26 May) Mat Sat 3pm Arcola Theatre Dalston 020 7503 1646 www.arcolatheatre.com