Between promoting his autobiography Proud, commentating on rugby matches and preparing for a stage show about his life, you’d think Gareth Thomas would be looking forward to a quiet Christmas. However, you would be mistaken, as you’ll find the former Welsh rugby star treading the boards as Dandini in Cinderella at Cardiff’s New Theatre from today.
“When I was approached to do it this year it was a kind of no-brainer because it was in Cardiff,” he recently told Andy Howells
“Its a difficult time of year to work constantly because you don’t go out to Christmas parties. but you create your own little environment in the show. Its your own little family, you make new friends and its all about having so much fun.”
Gareth made his pantomime debut in Aladdin at Wrexham two Christmases ago and recalls his first day as a panto star with laughter.
“I walked into a room and there was one of the guys dressed in a full body stocking, putting on all this make up and a huge wig. I was thinking to myself “what the hell am I doing here?”
“Then you realise the more outrageous, the more fun it is and the more it brings joy to other people. You have to embrace that and go along with that for the part.”
“For me its all about challenges,” says Gareth, “I could go through the rest of my life been known as an ex rugby player, but I want to do more than that. I will always be in love with rugby, in love with the game, but life is full of different challenges and different parts of who you are. Rugby gave a platform for me to stand on stage and essentially act and make other people laugh. When I left rugby I was unsure of what I’d do with the rest of my life, it was scary.
“Now what I do is embrace the fear and actually the fear is a challenge and I love challenges. If you’d asked me ten years ago would I do it, I’d have said “never in a million years”. Because I said I’d never do it and the fact I’m doing it now means I’m overcoming challenges constantly and that’s why I love it. Who says that every ex rugby player has to permanently be a commentator or coach, why can’t they do other things with their life?”
Gareth’s autobiography, Proud released in September, was received with positive reviews from readers and critics alike.
“I’d love to say it was an amazing journey,” he says, “but now its out and I’m hearing the comments and the effect it’s having on people. It makes everything I went through twice (because you go through it twice when you write about it) worthwhile. I didn’t think it would be. There are times and places I never want to physically or mentally revisit but to do the book I had to. By revisiting them I kind of faced up to them and finally put them to bed, rather than just saying “I don’t want to face them again”. For me it was the final hurdle of saying “its okay, I’ve got over it.” Its there in print to help other people it’s helped me as well.”
There are still talks that a film of Gareth’s life is to be made,
“That’s still happening, there’s some serious people involved. Its not a process that I’m wholly involved in, but I have to entrust it in other people and they know more about it than me.”
So, in the meantime, it’s back to Christmas, a season that brings a magical glint into Gareth’s eyes when we discuss it.
“I love everything about Christmas. I bought a house a few months back and one of the reasons I bought it is that it was made for Christmas decorations. I loved it that much I bought the house!”
His love for Christmas ties in neatly with his love for pantomime.
“I feel for anyone who loses their inner child,” he says, “I’m 40 years of age and I’m still a kid. I can go on stage and be part of something I love. Been able to give to so many people in the city that I love is a dream job.”
Gareth will star in Cinderella at The New Theatre alongside Lee Mead, Sam Kane, Linda Lusardi, Mike Doyle, Andy Jones and Holly Bluett from December 13 until January 18 Tickets can be bought on 029 2087 8889 or online at www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk
A version of this interview was published in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on December 5, 2014