Sport

Rugby hero Grav’s story to be told in TV adaptation of acclaimed stage show

03 Sep 2021 4 minutes Read
Ray Gravell (left – Credit: WRU) and Gareth John Bale who plays Grav (Credit: S4C)

David Owens

To mark what would have been Ray Gravell’s 70th birthday, a feature-length screen adaptation of the award-winning stage show ‘Grav’, will be aired on TV.

The story of the rugby legend and Welsh hero, who died in 2007 aged 56, will be shown on S4C. The film will be in Welsh, but will also have English subtitles available.

Actor Gareth John Bale will play the lead role which pays tribute to one of the giants of Welsh rugby.

Gareth John Bale as Ray Gravell (Credit: S4C)

The film which tells the story of his life and looks back on the events that shaped his unique personality will be broadcast on Sunday, September 12, the day that Ray would have turned 70.

The drama, adapted from Owen Thomas, Peter Doran and Gareth John Bale’s acclaimed stage show, has been directed by award-winning director Marc Evans, whose previous work includes The Pembrokeshire Murders, Manhunt and Y Bomiwr a’r Tywysog.

Having performed the one-man show over a hundred times across Wales, the UK and the US, a cast of actors will join Bale for this screen adaptation.

“There are elements of happiness and sadness in the drama, that is what makes it so special,” said Gareth. “You could imagine Grav saying it himself, that there were some players who wore the red jersey who were better than him – not many, but a few.

“But in terms of their life stories, there isn’t as much to tell, and Grav was certainly someone who wore his heart on his sleeve. The drama does look at some sad moments, moments which had a huge impact on him.

“But we also celebrate his life and there is a lot of comedy there too. There were peaks and troughs in his life, but that’s who Ray o’r Mynydd was.”

Family

The actor said throughout he has tried to keep the spirit of Grav alive.

“Instead of me trying to make some kind of caricature, I have always tried to capture his spirit,” he said. “That is what’s important to me, that Grav’s spirit comes through. I don’t think anyone would watch me and think, ‘he looks exactly like Grav’. But what people have said is, ‘you have captured him, you have captured his spirit.’

“The most important thing for me is that we pay tribute to Ray and remember him in the right way, but also that his family is happy with it. That is so important to me and to everyone else, and I am so grateful for their support over the years.”

Gareth John Bale as Ray Gravell (Credit: S4C)

Despite his extraordinary contribution to Llanelli Rugby Club, Wales and the British and Irish Lions, Grav was also famed for his work off the pitch during a successful career as a commentator, broadcaster and actor. As a young actor, Gareth was fortunate enough to work with Ray on the S4C series, A470.

“By then, Grav had worked with the famous director Louis Malle, and actors like Juliette Binoche, Jeremy Irons and Peter O’Toole,” said Gareth. “His acting CV was much bigger than mine. But he always said, ‘You’re the expert, you tell me what to do.

“I remember during one break, we were sat around a table. Some of the young actors knew who he was, but they tried to get it out of him. I remember him saying to them, ‘Well, I used to play a bit of rugby.’

“(Actor) Alun ap Brinley shot out of his chair! ‘A little bit of rugby? Boys, this is a British Lion!’ he said. But Grav didn’t want to say that himself and he never talked himself up. I only worked with him for three days, but like everyone who met him has said, it was just a pleasure.”

Grav airs on S4C on September 12 at 9pm. English subtitles available. It will also be available on demand: S4C Clic, iPlayer and other platforms.

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