David Davies outside Chapter Arts

Life imitates art: Actor wins lottery while in a play about missing out on a bet

Story based on real life tells how a decision by one man cost an entire village thousands

WELSH actor Dion Davies won over £55,000 in the EuroMillions, while preparing to star in The Bet, a play about a man who decided not to bet on a horse, costing his village thousands.

Set in a Carmarthenshire village, the play tells of a man who agrees to place bets for friends on a 100-1 outsider in a horse race. He decides the bet would be a waste of money and doesn’t bother – but then the horse romps home a winner.

According to director Ray Thomas, the play is loosely based on the 1990 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Norton’s Coin, whose owner Syrill Griffiths lived in Nantgaredig.

“Those people from Nantgaredig all decided to to put money on the horse,” said Ray.

“Somebody in the village collected all their bets, and was going to put it on at the bookies, but decided the horse stood no chance winning.

“He then owed everybody one hundred times what they had initially put down so he spent years getting the money back, he even had to sell his house. Eventually he managed to pay them all.

“The man is now back in the village, doing a lot of good work, and accepted by the local community.”

Welsh actor Dion Davies came up with the idea for the play when he heard the story from some friends. He plays “The Conscience” of the man who decided not to place the bet.

During rehearsals, Dion found in the visor of his car a EuroMillions ticket that he had forgotten about for over a month. It turned out to be worth £55,086.

“I took it for a professional valet,” said Dion. “The guy asked me to take all of my belongings out before he started just in case he threw away something that was valuable! I’m so glad he did.”

“You couldn’t write it!” said BAFTA Cymru award-winning playwright Owen Thomas who wrote The Bet.

“The play is about a guy who essentially loses a load of money and then, in the middle of rehearsals, the man who had the idea for the play wins 55 grand!”

“It’s just ridiculous. It’s funny when things that happen look like art imitating life,” added Owen, who originally intended the play as a one-man show.

Welsh Actor David Davies wasn’t as unlucky as his character in the play (Credit: National Lottery)

A48 theatre company director Ray wasn’t aware of the Norton’s Coin story until Owen approached him.

“Once we heard about Norton’s Coin and his win, the story just grew on us,” said Ray.

“The play doesn’t just talk about the horse; it has a moral as well. It shows the risks people take when gambling, and how it’s probably not a good use of your money, but it also about if you make a mistake in life then you have to own up and resolve it.”

The amateur A48 theatre company has about 40 amateur members aged between 22 and 75 including production crews and has been rehearsing twice a week in the evening at the Victoria Park Pub in Canton.

“Working with professional actors is really a development opportunity for the company,” said Ray.  “One of our aims is to be as professional as possible, but many of our members are students or work full time, so it’s not always possible.

“We want to keep that community, friendly feeling and help develop the skills of people in the local community. This is a very exciting opportunity.”

Playwright Owen describes the show as “a Greek tragedy – of sorts”.

He is enjoying working with the Welsh community theatre company.

“It’s an extremely exciting opportunity for both me and the A48,” said Owen.

“I’m quite passionate about real people’s stories, especially those set in Wales,” he added. “I like to show a slightly modernised version of Wales, rather than constantly seeing plays where Wales is a poor, mining country.”

“I’ve always written since I was a kid,” said Owen. “I grew up on a farm, in the middle of nowhere in Mid Wales. I used to enter the local Eisteddfod, but I went to a school where they didn’t do drama, so I asked the head one day if I could write a play and he replied, “yeah if you want”.”

 “From then on, I was hooked. Absolutely hooked.”

In 2022 Owen was nominated as best writer at the BAFTA Cymru Awards for his screenplay of Grav which won the BAFTA Cymru Award for best film.

  • The Bet opens on March 7 at Chapter Arts Centre in Canton and runs until March 11, 2023. Find out more here.