Blakeson - Writer

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

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Departed/Air Traffic

Saw “The Departed” last week – masterful, as everyone agrees. I love the way Scorsese’s visuals are just showy enough, without overdoing it. Jack Nicholson devours the scenery like a trouper, and Leo DiCaprio is always good as the troubled soul, but I thought Matt Damon did really well with a far trickier task – never letting us forget he’s the bad guy, even while playing the solid professional and caring boyfriend. It’ll be interesting to see what happens come Oscar time.

Another ace Barfly (Cardiff) gig this week – Air Traffic, the latest “new Coldplay”, who were excellent – a lot more jaunty and melodic than other wearers of the mantle (e.g. Morning Runner). Support came from Northern Ireland’s Kowalski – shambling indie-by-numbers, but no less enjoyable for that; and, rather incongruously, Kiddo360, an indie-funk band from Swansea fronted by a brother and sister – good, poppy tunes and exemplary showmanship; the other two bands could learn from their ability to develop a rapport with the audience. Everyone was depressingly young, of course.

Mildly depressed by the current “veils” row. The most disturbing thing is the sight of “Stop The War Coalition”-style “socialists” campaigning for the right of women to remain covered up – would this have been the orthodox left position 20 years ago?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Short film - "Dumped"

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Estella's Fire

I went to see Hijinx’s touring production of “Estella’s Fire” by Louise Osborn at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff on Saturday, and I really enjoyed it. It’s spun off from the story of Estella, Pip and Miss Havisham from Dickens’ “Great Expectations”, and transforms what is essentially a tale of neglect, cruelty and stunted hopes into a profoundly moving spectacle with a magical twist and an optimistic ending. I’m afraid I don’t go to see many productions aimed at “family” audiences, but any fears as to a possibly patronising tone were swiftly dispelled. Beautiful, deceptively simple design, and clever direction as well, not to mention a highly effective score and very engaging performances. A lovely night out, etc etc.

I could not help but compare it with Alan Harris’ “Orange”, the last play I saw, especially in terms of social relevance. “Orange” has been sold about a play about Iraq and the War On Terror, but isn’t really about much at all; “Estella” is a child-friendly Victorian musical melodrama (although John Hardy’s music is resolutely modernist), but touches on such universal issues as child abuse (in its broadest sense), the relations between the classes, the relations between the sexes, mental illness, the pain of growing up, and social isolation. One is reminded of a debate on the Theatre In Wales message-board a while back, in which a locally well-known playwright complained that “The Merchant Of Venice”, which was on at the time, was not “relevant” in the contemporary world – a position which was given the shortest of shrift by all who noted it, but which was somewhat worrisome in terms of some dramatists’ perceptions of their role. I guess one is, as always, drawn back to the Mametian position, that theatre “exists to deal with problems of the soul, with the mysteries of human life, not with its quotidian calamities.” Which is why drama is incompatible with propaganda, and why plays about issues never work unless they’re also plays about believable human beings.

Sadly, due to my reliance on the Radio Times, I only caught the final third of David Aaronovitch’s “Don’t Get Me Started” show about the Fake Left/Islamo-fascist nexus on Five last week. Judging by some of the outraged reaction online, however, it seems to have hit the spot. Too much use of grainy close-ups of Galloway’s eyes though – there’s no need to resort to image-manipulation to make him look sinister.