We meet Ray Gravel after his death in 2007, in monologue looking back over his life. He covers many topics—of losing a leg to diabetes, of the death of his father—but mostly he returns to the thing he loved most: rugby.
He takes us back, a smile on his face, sweat on his brow, to the moment that defined him, and defined Wales: 31 October 1972. The team from Llanelli, a mining town of 50,000 people, beats the All Blacks. And Grav was playing. “9 – 3”, he says, still in wonder all these years later.
Peter Doran directs Gareth Bale in a performance filled with strength and vulnerability, playing through the lyrical tendencies of Owen Thomas’ script. Grav gives us a man who is simultaniously confident and self-effacing. In the game, he knows his strength: he knows the brawn of the muscle in his back, the curve of the ball in his hands, and the spirit of the heritage in his heart. Off the field, he is a quieter man.
There is perhaps too little in this play to really engage with, particularly for those who aren't fans of Gravel already, but for the true believers, this is a work of great depth and celebration.
“To represent something you love is incredibly humbling,” Grav says of playing rugby. But in that moment, it could also be Bale speaking of standing on stage, in the shoes of a man who was greatly loved and will continue to be loved by Wales for many years to come.