Review: Torch Theatre’ Grav, The Riverfront, Newport

Hailing from an era when people in sport were stars as opposed to celebrities, Welsh rugby star Ray Gravell’s legendary exploits on the rugby field are still well remembered and celebrated thanks to the Owen Thomas penned one-man show, Grav starring Gareth J Bale

Not only does the play celebrate Grav’s sporting achievements, but through humorous anecdotes and sharply tuned sound scaping, retells the highs and lows of a life of a boy growing up in Carmarthenshire to becoming a father, a husband and even an actor.

The play opens with Grav seemingly arriving in a disused Rugby Union changing room. Eerie echoes of his life begin to haunt him until he hears the tones of what appear to be his late mother singing Danny Boy to him. Using his late mother as a focal point Grav opens a conversation to his mother as he reflects on his life and career.  

From carefree beginnings, rolling around in thick Ammanford mud to crashing into the New Zealand All Blacks like the shifting sands of Cardigan Bay, Grav is as poetic as it is biographical.

Gareth J Bale’s portrayal is mesmerising, funny and touching, as he metamorphosises from Ray the boy who suffers a personal loss on the death of his father to Grav, the rugby legend who later in life faces his greatest battle with diabetes.

Grav’s spirit, warmth and humour seeps through the production and touches the audience of Newport Riverfront Theatre with laughter and a seeming sense of recognition. Not only are the fun anecdotes of Grav’s encounters with JPR Williams and Peter O’Toole enjoyed, but iconic moments such as Llanelli’s 1972 9-3 victory over the New Zealand All Blacks at Stradley Park and touring with The Lions in South Africa during 1980. Each match is relived by the audience with an excited anticipation as they gently echo Bread of Heaven as the music plays over the speakers during the performance.

Meticulously researched and beautifully portrayed, Grav is a truly special presentation bringing you into the heart of one of Wales all-time greats for 75 minutes.

  • Grav reaches the conclusion of its Welsh tour on March 15 before  playing The Hope Theatre in London at the end of March. For further details visit
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