Minutes before the play began, I walked into the Sherman theatre finding myself in the pleasant surroundings of a few dozen people who, like myself were all anxiously waiting for Peter Doran’s ‘GRAV’ to begin. Upon reading that the show was solely performed by one man, I was not sure what to expect. But as the play began I knew that I would be partaking in an emotional yet captivating rollercoaster. With scenes that created both tears and laughter, Doran’s ‘GRAV’ can only be described as a one-man stroke of genius.
After already upholding a small amount of information about Ray Gravell and his impact on sport culture, the script alongside the skilled direction and outstanding acting from Gareth Bale all aided in developing my knowledge and providing an insight on the life of Ray Gravell. From a beloved rugby player, to the centre of demonstrations raising awareness for diabetes, Gareth Bale carefully yet expertly portrayed the life, the conflicts and inner emotions of Gravell’s life.
As the play began, the lights revealed what could only be described as an old changing room where a ghostly figure of Ray Gravell appeared on stage which only contributed to the ambiguity of the opening scene, whilst setting an intriguing yet eerie atmosphere in the Sherman theatre. Throughout the first half of GRAV, Bale’s monologue consisted of the story of Ray Gravell’s rugby career; his doubts; the people who created a mechanism of motivation inside him, not forgetting moments that made his heart stop, heat-beat as well as comprehending the feeling of pride in his career and life choices.
In addition to the terrific acting and direction, credit is also undoubtedly given to writer of the play, Owen Thomas for his clever humour entwined with the poignant themes of the play. For me, it felt as if I was listening to an old friend (with a very strong welsh accent) who was telling the audience about the time he worked as a movie star, the famous people he met and the way he felt. I am still unsure whether this was due to the one- man nature of the play or the intimate and personal approach that was effectively crafted by Gareth Bale.
Interestingly, GRAV was written after the legend’s death in 1980. GRAV was written in his honour and “to remind the world once more of a unique life well lived”. As the programme rightfully said, the production did extend my knowledge on a public hero as well as providing an insight to Ray Gravell’s personal life. This play performed by the Torch Theatre Company provided a sentimental yet comedic account of the life of Ray Gravell. The show will indefinitely not be forgotten by me and judging by the audience’s comments afterwards- not them either.
Reviewed by Dimana Markova
GRAV ran from the 9th March 2015 to 11th March 2015 at Sherman Cymru, Cardiff.
For more information on future productions please visit: http://www.shermancymru.co.uk/homepage/