Blakeson - Writer

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

Monday, June 25, 2007

Incubator / Spamalot

I spent a couple of days last week taking part on a workshop organised under the auspices of the Wales Millennium Centre's Incubator Project, designed to encourage innovative theatre projects. The company I was working with is trying to find practical ways of putting together a multiply-authored play - as I see it, attempting to create something which exhibits the freshness of a devised project, but the discipline inherent in the "well-made play". Thus, along with a handful of other Cardiff-based playwrights, I took part in exercises involving the generation of dialogue based around random themes, the combining of extracts of previously extant work (e.g. about love, about change), and the writing of short scenes based on paintings, objects, songs etc. Highly stimulating, and very enjoyable, although I was painfully aware of being, by some distance, the oldest person involved. Still, it's always good to experience fresh creative methodologies; and, if a coherent performance piece eventually results, it will be novel to be part of something vaguely avant-garde.

I missed the third day of workshops due to my previously-arranged birthday trip to see "Spamalot" in the West End. Basically the "Holy Grail" story with songs, and sundry other Monty Python references thrown in to please the geeks. Immense fun. There was something strangely heartening about watching Simon Russell Beale, C.B.E., one of the finest Hamlets of his generation, having a laugh with "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life". The show-stealer, though, was Hannah Waddingham as the parodically diva-ish Lady Of The Lake. The experience was only marred by my restricted-view balcony seat; I'd doubtless have enjoyed it more had I sat in the stalls - but probably not £30 more.

Very luckily for me, the BBC appear to be repeating the entire run of "Tracy Beaker" on BBC2 - a much-needed source of income as I search for a proper post-PhD job.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


Went to see comedian Richard Herring at Cardiff's Chapter Arts Centre on 2nd June - the first of two shows that night, being filmed for DVD by Go Faster Stripe. Very funny and highly provocative. An object lesson in putting together a two-hour set: start with a few apparently random one-liners; then the main body of the show, consisting of a number of discrete segments, during which he both referred back to the opening gambits, and picked suitable members of the audience with which to build an onstage relationship (a couple on whom to hang his somewhat cynical take on relationships, a young woman with whom he could "fake" lechery); building up to a climax which consisted of him riffing on the absurdity of joke-telling, and doing a good impression of a man on the edge of a breakdown; then tying things up neatly at the end, to rapturous applause. Fascinating how likeable he was, given some of the ideas he played with (sexism, fascism, extreme blasphemy), and the self-conscious outrageousness of some of his material (e.g. the thing about the sexual possibilities inherent in stigmata); maybe because of his self-deprecating persona (he pointed out that despite his former TV fame alongside the now rather more high-profile Stewart Lee, he was "reduced" to playing 120-seater venues). Although, like most Oxbridge graduates, he wasted little time in establishing that he was an Oxbridge graduate, but fair enough. Great fun, though, and the fact that one’s mind was fizzing with ideas afterwards took the sting out of having to negotiate the obstacle course of alcohol-inflected weirdness which is Cardiff city centre on a post-match Saturday evening.