Blakeson - Writer

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

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Luke Toms / John Carey

Another excellent Cardiff Barfly gig this week, headlined by Luke Toms, notable for his look – reminiscent of a Russian anarchist out of Wodehouse, albeit one who’s recently had a bath – and a voice which calls to mind early ‘70s Bowie in impassioned piano-ballad mode. Accompanied by a three-piece band, his sound is somewhat more soulful than his Edwardian gent image might suggest, calling to mind Tom Waits. The “hits” “Peace By Myself”, Hangover Blues” and “Fools With Money” went down well amongst the ridiculously small audience – obviously, the cool kids were a few hundred metres away watching Maximo Park in the Students’ Union – and his more unfamiliar material seemed pretty strong as well. Very special. First on in support were AMOA – an acoustic guitars and drums trio led by two Afro-British brothers, whose pleasant songs were interspersed with acapella moments and amplifier problems; some of the melodies seemed to lacked distinctiveness on first hearing, however. Also on was Broken Leaf, whose set consisted largely of tragic trad-folk love songs (although he also gave us Morrissey’s “Satan Rejected My Soul”) accompanied by plangent electric guitar – good stuff.
A remarkable programme on BBC4 last night – “The Menace of the Masses”, in which John Carey reiterated points made in his eye-opening book “The Intellectuals And The Masses”, in which he pointed out the disdain in which the working-classes, non-European races and popular culture were held, during the Edwardian era, by writers commonly considered to be left-liberals – H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, D.H. Lawrence, E. Nesbitt, W.B. Yeats etc. The idea of education for the poor was deemed to be undesirable, and Wells even suggested that “inferiors” should be exterminated. Carey suggested that such extreme eugenicist views directly contributed to a climate in which Hitler and Stalin were permitted to flourish. Valuable evidence that the concept of supposedly progressive individuals embracing illiberal causes is by no means a new one.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sunshine/Boy Genius

Went to see Danny Boyle’s new film Sunshine this week – highly impressive on a cinematographic level, and with an extremely well constructed and cleverly-pitched (not too techie, but not insultingly obvious) screenplay by Alex Garland, but somehow hard to entirely warm to (no pun intended), despite the excellent, committed performances. Maybe I was too busy trying to discern what was going on, given the intentionally confusing visual style, to get deeply involved with the story. The suicide-bombing sub-text is fascinating, though:– the clash between those who sacrifice themselves for the good of mankind, and those who sacrifice themselves because it’s God’s will that mankind should die.

Playing at Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre this week, for one night only, was Louise Osborn’s play Boy Genius, normally presented as part of a day-long event funded by the Wellcome Trust during which sixth-formers are prompted to confront the ramifications of genetic research. The plot involves a troubled teenage boy who trawls through the history of eugenics, euthanasia, etc, in order to try and glean clues about his identity, as the son of a single mother who happens to be a noted geneticist (with ready access to sperm-filled test-tubes), and the grandson of a Holocaust survivor. The focal point was a highly engaging performance from young Jolyon Westhorpe, although the cast (variously playing aspects of the boy’s consciousness, members of his family, and characters in historical re-enactments) was uniformly admirable, as was every other aspect of the piece – vivid writing, sensitive music score, kinetic direction, etc. Given that the point of the play is to provoke discussion, rather than to function as a stand-alone piece, I felt I sensed a little confusion amongst the audience at the end when a massive question was left unanswered. An absorbing, stimulating, oddly trippy experience, though.

I am now officially a PhD - I picked up my hardbound thesis (in crimson) a couple of weeks ago - and officially looking for a job. Luckily, a recent Tracy Beaker repeat-fee, and the receipt of an overdue payment from BBC Comedy mean that I’m able to stave off bankruptcy for a few more months.

So, 15 British sailors are kidnapped and held captive by a hostile, repressive, sexist, anti-Semitic, government; some of them sell their story to the tabloids - and the media succeed in making the story all about the media. Furthermore, they seem desperate to hand the propaganda victory to Iran. Am I the only person to whom this doesn’t make sense?