The story of a forgotten Welsh superstar who was at the centre of cycling’s first drugs scandal has been brought back to life – with the help of a top TV actress.
Llinos Daniel, one of the stars of the hit detective series Hinterland, has one of the main roles in a play inspired by the life and times of the remarkable Arthur Linton that’s coming to the Stiwt Theatre in Rhos, near Wrexham, next Saturday (May 9).
Linton, a miner from Aberaman, near Aberdare, was taking the cycling world by storm long before the start of the Tour de France in 1903 and the birth of Sir Bradley Wiggins in 1980.
He convincingly won the 360-mile Bordeaux to Paris Road race in 1896 and broke the world one-hour un-paced cycling record on what was the very first racing bike – the Gladiator.
When Linton died aged 24 just two months after his Bordeaux–Paris triumph most commentators believed his demise was as a result of doping.
Playwright Laurence Allan’s drama, Gladiator, tells Linton’s story through the eyes of a modern-day Aberdare family, including 18 year old twins Jimmy and Jenny.
Their world is turned upside down after Jimmy finds an ancient bike and a very strange man in Victorian underwear in his dad’s garage.
Choppy Warburton, Linton’s trainer, has returned as a ghost in search of redemption and soon Jimmy is reliving the legendary bike race from Bordeaux to Paris riding the ancient Gladiator cycle, looking for honour with Choppy as his trainer – but all within the confines of an Aberdare attic.
The play, according to actor Llinos Daniel, is an emotional, heart-warming and up-lifting story full of laughs but with a serious message.
Daniel, who has just finished filming the next series of Hinterland, plays Faye, the mother of Jimmy and Jenny.
She as a long list of TV credits to her name including S4C soap Pobol y Cwm, in which she played Siwan Davies between 1999 and 2011 and more lately Nikki Foulkes.
She also played the role of Eleri in Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood and another mum, Eluned Roberts, in Hinterland.
According to Daniel, who lives in Mumbles near Swansea, Gladiator is a play full of real characters.
She said: “Larry Allan, the writer, has really come up with an uplifting story. It’s about people who dare to be different and who realise they can achieve anything they want in life.”
Playwright Larry Allan says Arthur Linton really was the Bradley Wiggins of his day and 20,000 people lined the streets for his funeral.
He said: “I’m amazed really Linton’s story isn’t better known in Wales. He was incredibly famous in his day yet there was always a whiff of controversy about him, thanks mainly to Choppy Warburton, his trainer.
“Doping wasn’t illegal then and this was before the first Tour de France. I wanted to tell Linton’s story, but through the eyes of a modern and perhaps dysfunctional family.”
He added: “There is a cast of six and the story revolves around Choppy Warburton, or rather his ghost, returning and looking for honour and dignity.
“However, this means Jimmy tackling the epic Bordeaux to Paris bike race. The only problem being Jimmy can’t ride so they train and do the ride without ever leaving the garage.
“Jimmy has other problems to contend with as he has to survive the attentions of the girl next door, his annoying twin sister who is desperate to be a model, his mum’s horrible boyfriend and a hapless dad who’s been missing for a decade. And of course either shame or glory.
“I’m really proud of Gladiator and how it has been received. I’m positive the Stiwt audience is going to enjoy the play.”
Also heading for the Stiwt is former royal harpist Catrin Finch who will be presenting work from her latest classical CD, Tides, on Sunday, May 24.
Later a brand new in-house comedy drama, The Committee, commissioned by the Stiwt will have its premiere on Friday, June 19, with a matinee and evening performance on Saturday, June 20.
To book tickets for Gladiator and the other shows at the Stiwt visit www.stiwt.com or call the box office on 01978 841 300.