“It Just Spilled Out Of Me” : Anthony Bunko Discusses Knuckles – A Welsh Valleys Play Destined for Edinburgh Fringe!

Gurnwah & RCT Theatres co-production of Anthony Bunko’s play Knuckles is to head out on tour this week.

The one-man show starring Paul Black as Victor “The Knuckles” Norman follows the character oh his last day and is a disturbing story, based loosely on true events, of one man’s rise and fall and all the chaos that ensued in-between.

Knuckles will tour several Welsh venues in the coming months as well as playing London, Dublin and ultimately Edinburgh Fringe. Anthony Bunko recently discussed the origins of the play with Andy Howells.

How would you describe Knuckles?

It’s a rollercoaster ride of emotions really rammed into 55 minutes. It’s quite dark. The last day of anyone’s retirement is usually calm and peaceful. That is unless your name is Victor ‘The Knuckles’ Norman. It’s quite a disturbing story, based loosely on true events of one man’s rise and fall and all the chaos that ensues in-between. It’s a story about how someone can choose the wrong road at the wrong time in life. Sometimes it’s that person’s choice which road they take. Other times, sadly the road can be decided for them by others.

Paul Black stars in the Anthony Bunko play, Knuckles.

Can you tell us about Knuckles?

Victor wakes up on his last day before his long-awaited retirement covered in blood. Not only has he got to piece together what happened, but also how he got to that stage in his life in the first place. It’s dark, upsetting, humorous and gritty. It’s a one man play, with the wonderful Paul Black playing all the characters. His skill with accents and disguises is tremendous. We have a new director Richard Tunley who is fantastic and really pushing the writing and the acting. We also have a professional backroom team…sorting out the scenery, lighting, sound effects etc. We will be forever in debt to Angela Gould and RCT Theatres plus Arts Council of Wales and Wellbeing Merthyr who have supported us enough so we can tour it around Wales, take it to London, Dublin and ending up doing a week’s run at the Edinburgh Fringe in August. Hopefully that will just be the start of its journey….

The play is described as based loosely on true events, where did you get the inspiration from and how did you go about researching it?

It’s based around 6 short stories that had been floating around my brain for many years. All of them were based on true events which happened in Merthyr in the 70’s and 80’s. they were either things I saw for myself or heard about. One of the main links to the overall play is based on Paul’s family life when growing up. Of course, I stretched them and changed the characters and interlinked them all up with Victor’s life story. The valleys at that time were a very different kind of place than today. It was a violent place, and it was a tough old time, full of tough old people. It was good to clear my head of them.

Paul Black stars in the Anthony Bunko play, Knuckles.

Did you have Paul in mind for it when you wrote it?

To be truthful I wrote it for Paul. A few years ago, he had tragedy in his life when his two-year-old daughter was killed. Obviously, it was devastated for him and his wife Gemma. After about 18 months of living in a constant nightmare, he asked me to go for a coffee with him and he said he wanted to try and get back to the stage and would I write him something. ‘I’m not in mood to do a comedy,’ he said. In a strange way, I felt privilege and really didn’t want to let him down. We discussed a few options and stories but kept going back to a play I had written a few years previous called Breathe. I normally write comedy but Breathe was my first dark play. In the play there was a character called Thug which Paul had played. We both like this character and so we decided to use him more and see where it took us. And the rest as they say is history.

How do you approach writing a play for a solo performer as opposed to an ensemble piece?

I sat in my garden and it just spilled out of me. Once the tap was turned on, the story just flowed. I didn’t really think it would be a one man play to start. I pictured Paul playing the main role and others slotting in here and there. But when I finished it, Paul loved it and we decided to see what it would be like with Paul playing all the characters. He is the most talented person I know so I knew it would work. It was in a safe pair of hands.

Paul Black stars in the Anthony Bunko play, Knuckles.

What do you hope people will take home from having seen the performance?

I would love them to be talking about it for weeks to come and tell all their friends about it. I would like them to recognise some of the characters in the show. People they may have come across in those violent times.

Again, like I said when I wrote it, it was for Paul. For him to at least crawl out of his nightmare for a short time and to show the world his talents. So, if he’s happy, that will do for me. But with support from Angela Gould and our new director Richard Tunley and team, I would love the audience to not only see that there is talent in the valleys with its writers / actors etc and not just centred around Cardiff or London but maybe in their own way help us take it to a much wider audience!

Knuckles plays the following dates:

  • May 4th Parc And Dare Theatre Treorchy
  • May 6th Michael Sheen Theatre Cardiff and Vale College
  • May 11th The Met Abertillery
  • May 12th  Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon
  • May 13th The Grand Theatre, Swansea
  • May 14th The Playground Theatre, London
  • May 18th Coliseum Theatre (Aberdare)
  • May 19th Blackwood Miners’ Institute
  • July 6th Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin
  • August 14-20 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Thistle Theatre

For further details visit Gurnwah Productions Facebook page.

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