Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Carlos Acosta / Spring Fringe / The Beauty Parade / Tylwyth

Well, obviously, coronavirus panic has called a halt to all theatrical activity for the time being (including a rudimentary project I was working on); but at least I managed to see and review some interesting stuff before the shut-down.

Acosta Danza (photo: Johan Persson)

The most high-profile was legendary Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta’s company delivering a beautifully diverse programme entitled “Acosta Danza Evolution” at the Wales Millennium Centre, culminating in Christopher Bruce’s amusing Rolling Stones-soundtracked “Rooster”. Also celebratory, although in a more sombre fashion was Kaite O’Reilly’s “The Beauty Parade”, in the W.M.C.’s Weston Studio - an aesthetically ambitious, multi-media tribute to female undercover operatives during World War 2.
Sophie Stone in "The Beauty Parade" (photo: Jorge Lizalde)

I also caught two shows in the now-truncated Spring Fringe season at The Other Room: the likeably ramshackle “Back To Berlin”, about the beginning of the end of the Cold War; and Katie Greenall’s “Fatty Fat Fat”, a brave but funny look at body image. There was, in addition, a trip to Newport’s Riverfront to see Operasonic’s enchanting “Vehicles”, a small-scale opera for young people, with a science-fiction twist.
"Back To Berlin" (photo: Dali Mia Poulsom)

The big hit of the year, however, was shaping up to be “Tylwyth” at the Sherman, Daf James follow-up to “Llwyth”, his pioneering look at the lives of gay men within a Welsh-speaking environment. I was delighted to note that a familiarity with the first play was unnecessary, and while I didn’t get all of the cultural references, sur-titles meant that most of the wit and darkness came across. Sadly, however, like most cultural life in the U.K. and beyond, the Welsh tour has been postponed.


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Sunday, March 01, 2020

"Wolf" / "Suspense" / "Carmen"

Two theatre-reviewing assignments this week: my first visit of the year to The Other Room for a show in their Springe Fringe season of curated work – Lewis Doherty’s “Wolf” – a clever one-man parody action movie; and “An Evening Of… Suspense” – two classic American radio plays, including “Sorry, Wrong Number”, at the Atrium.
Lewis Doherty as "Wolf" (photo: Geraint Lewis)
In between, I took advantage of the rare opportunity to see an opera I’ve always wanted to  – Bizet’s “Carmen” from the Welsh National Opera at the Wales Millennium Centre (from the cheapest of cheap, restricted view tickets, in the upper circle). And a beautiful experience it was too, in Jo Davies’ production, apparently set in 1970s Brazil. Julia Mintzer was compellingly sexy as the titular temptress, but Peter Auty as soldier Don José and Giorgio Caoduru as Escamillo, the bullfighter she abandons him for were also hugely impressive, as was Elin Pritchard, making her home debut as the disregarded Micaëla. Timeless melodies, of course, teeing us up for the startlingly violent conclusion. Hopefully not the first major ambition I’ll achieve this year.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020


Bong Joon-Ho’s “Parasite” tells the story of a poor South Korean family, the Kims, who ingeniously inveigle their way into employment at the home of the wealthy Park family. Just as we seem to be settling into an amiable tale about small-time grifters, however, events take a dark turn…


Inevitably, given the film’s huge critical and awards success, expectations will be high. Indeed, there is nothing new in the subject-matter of “Parasite” – social inequality and family love; and the directorial style is clever without being flashy – none of the high-tech visuals of Bong’s “Snowpiercer”. The narrative switcheroo raises the emotional stakes considerably, however, with Jaeil Jung’s score creepily evocative, without being manipulative.

Inevitably, there will be talk of an American re-make, but it’s hard to think of a director who could handle the tale’s changes of tone without lessening its impact – and any suggestions might constitute a spoiler.

Suffice it to say, while it is not as dazzling a piece of work as, say, “1917”, “Parasite” is well deserving of the continuing acclaim.

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Thursday, February 13, 2020

"Llyrf Glas Nebo" / "Winners"

After the traditional January drought, two theatre review assignments came up in close succession. First up was Manon Steffan Ros’ adaptation of her best-selling Y.A. novel “Llyfr Glas Nebo” (“The Blue Book Of Nebo”), a post-apocalyptic tale set in North Wales and presented in Welsh with (on the night I attended) English sur-titles; a touching portrayal of a mother-son relationship under impossible conditions. The next evening, also in the Sherman Theatre, but in the studio space, was the latest in their irregular “Get It While It’s Hot” series of “A Play, A Pie and A Pint”-style presentations:– Lowri Jenkins' “Winners”, about a relationship defined by the love of rugby; funny and poignant.

Incidentally, it was good to see the Sherman foyer abuzz, with two plays on at the same time – a rare occurrence in recent years.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020


Sam Mendes’ “1917”, based on a story from his family’s history, see two British soldiers, played by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman, tasked with delivering an urgent message from a World War I trench to a nearby regiment, in an effort to keep them from falling into a fiendish trap set by the Hun. Needless to say, there is much unfortunate incident along the way.

The tale is told as though in a single take and in real time (well, almost), and is thoroughly gripping, truly bringing home the horror of conflict, as well as paying tribute to the concepts of duty and comradeship. Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns’ script (along with Thomas Newman’s score) never allows the tension to slip, even during the rare moments of apparent calm; there are plentiful clever visual set-pieces (cinematography by Roger Deakins); and the parade of star cameos is only slightly distracting. Beautifully realised, this is cinema at its most powerfully immersive.

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Friday, January 10, 2020

"The King And I" / Best Theatre of 2019

January is generally a barren desert when it comes to theatre-going, so it was good to get an opportunity to see the touring version of the recent Broadway revival of “The King And I” at the Wales Millennium Centre – my first ever live experience of a Rodgers and Hammerstein. Very impressive and pointed, and a reminder of the power of the American musical of the classic era.

The King And I (pic: Johan Persson)

Meanwhile, I contributed the customary Bests of 2019 piece to the British Theatre Guide; delighted to name National Theatre Wales’ “On Bear Ridge” as my production of the year.

Over Christmas, I had my regular appointment to catch up on “Star Wars”, and found “The Rise Of Skywalker” to be surprisingly coherent and dramatically satisfying – but then, I’m not immersed or particularly invested in the culture.

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Friday, December 20, 2019


I finally got a chance to see “Sprinkles” – the first play from actress Katie-Elin Salt – presented as a Dirty Protest rehearsed reading at Chapter. The festive tale of a troubled young woman who gets a job as a department store elf, and is forced to face up to an unhappy past, it manages to be both poignant and scabrously funny. Having been in development for a while, it’s apparently destined to get a full run next year.

A few weeks ago, at The Other Room, I also got the opportunity to experience Nick Payne’s dazzlingly clever multiverse drama, “Constellations”, in what was essentially an amateur production (originating with The Unknown Theatre Company), although a highly accomplished one, with the play’s complexities beautifully realised.

"Constellations" (photo: Walter Hampson)
And it looks as though my first reviewing assignment of 2020 is booked in: “The King And I” at the Wales Millennium Centre. Shall we dance?

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