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The courage behind the medals
Perseverence and patience are qualities that can often get overlooked when we’re striving towards personal goals. The touring stage show Beyond Gold, follows the inspiring stories of some of the world’s greatest athletes, who not only won against the odds but went on to inspire others through their achievements. Featuring a cast of young performers with support from St Albans’ Promise Children’s Choir, the show combines dance, drama and gospel music.
One of the many life stories covered in the show is that of Bletchley-born sprinter Derek Redmond who started his career at Milton Keynes Athletic Club at the age of seven. Now a motivational speaker and coach, Derek is best known for struggling through the pain of a torn hamstring to reach the finish line in the 400m semi finals at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
Director and writer Mervyn Weir brings to the fore both famous and lesser known athletes in his musical production, which explores the personal side of their exhilarating, and often painful, journeys towards sporting success.
“Everybody has heard of Eric Liddell,“ Mervyn points out. “The point is not to focus on his 1924 Olympic 400m triumph, the real interest is in what happens to him afterwards in his missionary work.
“Wilma Rudolph was born with many diseases including paralysis and it was thought she would not be able to walk let alone run and she went on to win triple Gold in the 1960 Olympics in Rome.
“Then in 1968 there were the twin triumphs of Bob Beamon and Dick Fosbury, who both achieved extraordinary feats in the same Olympics. They showed what you could do just by being prepared to be yourself.
“Bob Beamon’s long jump world record stood for 23 years, and after Fosbury, the only way to do the high jump was to flop backwards over the bar. All of these athletes encouraged people to be their best selves.“
Mervyn has written and directed an array of powerful musicals and dramas including Quest, celebrating the Windrush anniversary (the ship that brought 492 passengers from the Caribbean to start a new life in England); Pure Voice, which featured Blessed Voices (winners of Channel 4 Gospel Singers of the Year); Nobody Knows, which commemorates the bi-centenary of the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade; and Fired Up a stage production and film, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.
Mervyn discovered drama while growing up in Kingsbury and went on to write and produce plays.
“I was lucky to grow up in a church that believed in drama. I was a very shy kid and it was one way to get me out of myself. Within the church environment there were many opportunities to put things on. I formed a group to take things round to other churches and with each production I saw more potential. The challenge was to make these gospel-themed stories interesting to the general public and a modern audience.
“I have a Masters in multimedia so each production has a strong visual element – Beyond Gold includes footage of the real lives of Olympians taken from an inspirational angle.
“You don’t have to be interested in sport to get something from the production. It’s about the universal themes of perseverance and patience, picking yourself up after defeat and disaster and that can inspire anyone.“
Beyond Gold is at The Alban Arena, Civic Centre, St Albans on Sunday, July 29 at 7pm. Details: 01727 844488, www.alban-arena.co.uk