Interview with Rhys ap William

17th Feb 2015

Rhys ap William holding a rugby ball

RHYS AP WILLIAM stars in Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage, Robin Soans’ new play about gay Welsh rugby icon Gareth “Alfie” Thomas. He took time out from technical rehearsals to answer a few questions.

Tell us about the show?
It’s a story about a rugby man and his home town. A roller coaster. I play Baz, Alfie’s dad, and Gareth himself. Baz is a great role and his scenes with Vonnie are great fun. Playing Gareth is an honour. He came to watch a run in week 5 and that was an emotional afternoon.

Rhys rehearsing with Katie Elin-SaltYou’ve been involved in rugby most of your life.  Are you still playing?
I’ve been player,chairman, treasurer and barman at my current club, Clwb Rygbi Cymry Caerdydd since around 1999.  I’ve played since the age of 5 and would love a game in my 40th year, injuries permitting.  The future for me in rugby terms is the committee room and my blazer.

Were you aware Alfie was gay before he came out – or at least aware of rumours?
Wales is a small place, like a big village! Rumours travel fast but the truth remained a mystery.

Have there been rumours about other players?
A lot of names were flying about when Alfie’s rumours started circulating, but he’s the only one that has come out. There are a few good fake tans in Welsh rugby!

Do you think it’s still difficult for people in team sports like Rugby Union in Wales to come out?
I think he was in a great sport to do what he did. Rugby Union is a tight family and team mates look after each other. It is difficult for anybody to come out in any sport due to the public perception of players. Follow Alfie’s lead.

Rhys in rehearsals with Bethan Witcomb looking towards someone throwing a rugby ball towards themYou’re the “face and voice” of Welsh Rugby Union at the Millennium Stadium. How did that come about? And – commiserations! – what was the atmosphere like at England v Wales in the Six Nations last week?
It’s a dream job. Apart from the England game! I’ve been doing it for 10 years, it started from doing a voice-over for the BBC. My role has evolved from “voice of god” at the stadium to match day presenter for WRU TV. I watch the game from the tunnel, and the atmosphere’s always electric. It’s not quite playing but it’s a good second place.

When did you know you wanted to be an actor?
No idea! I guess it started in chapel and primary school. I was always reading and performing and loved it. I’m 40 this year and still think about my university application form – I had all sorts on it but chose the Theatre Media Music option. I’m still just about employable so I guess I chose wisely.

Has working with Max Stafford-Clark?
I knew of Max and his work, but I didn’t know what to expect and certainly didn’t know about his rugby pedigree. He has opened my eyes to actioning text and indeed on performing as a whole. I’ve loved the rehearsal time with him and learned a hell of a lot.

Rhys in rehearsals with Patrick Brennan reading a script Where in Wales are you from, and what’s it like there?
I’m from Cwmllynfell. It’s a small mining and farming village at the foot of the Black Mountain at the top of the Swansea Valley. It’s a beautiful place that I don’t see enough of. Hills, rivers, trees and rugby! What a place to grow up. Unman yn debyg i gatre – that’s Welsh for “no place like home”.

Do you enjoy touring?
With a 7 month old daughter at home it’s not quite as much fun as it used to be, but with the great cast and crew we’ll have a top time. We’ll be at some great theatres all over the country and I’m looking forward to the London run at the Arcola.

Watch Rhys in Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage, touring Wales and England, February – June 2015.

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