Blakeson - Writer

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

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Since radio drama tends to come and go with little comment, I thought it worth saluting Sarah Daniels for “God Blind Me”, broadcast this week on BBC Radio 4. A beautifully elegant yet brutal piece, starring Penelope Wilton as a nun who develops a relationship with an incarcerated paedophile, it seemed to be turning into one of those stories about a silly, misguided woman falling in love with a prisoner, then proceeded to wrong-foot the listener at every turn, on the way to a shattering denouement, and a remarkable coda. One of the best plays I’ve heard in a while, despite at least one glaring implausibility.

I have to add my voice to those praising Quentin Tarantino’sDeath Proof”, in the face of “mixed” reviews, and poor U.S. box-office. His skill with dialogue and characterisation combined with his propensity for ridiculously graphic violence made for an exceptionally vivid piece of trashy story-telling, to my mind. Plus, the women seemed fairly well-drawn, given the pulpy context.

Sad to note that the anti-government protests in Burma/Myanmar seem to be dying down. “Why aren’t the American’s doing anything? Because there’s no oil there, that’s why not!” was the chorus from radio phone-ins – ignoring the fact that there’s plenty of oil there, but it’s controlled by China; and that if America did intervene, the streets of the Western world would be streaming with placard-waving protestors (“Hands off Rangoon!”, etc.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I’m still recovering from the experience of watching the highly cinematic adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel “Atonement”. A triumph on every level. Starting out as what appears to be yet another heritage/country house melodrama, its tone quickly darkens somewhat, although the plot hinges on an unlikely schoolboy error by James McAvoy’s character. He conveys wounded righteousness to shattering effect, Keira Knightley puts her wafer-thin porcelain brittleness to good use, and Saoirse Ronan and Romola Garai are wonderful as subtly petulant and older, wiser versions of the same adolescent, whose wilful misinterpretation of events destroys a number of lives, whilst possibly being the making of others. Director Joe Wright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton refrain from using voice-over until well into the story, and even then it’s inherent to the tale, rather than simply a lazy, non-visual way of telling it. The directorial approach is mood-sensitive rather than obtrusive, with very clever use of sound (typewriter keys as part of the score, the water motif), and camerawork strictly serving the needs of the narrative, the imagery being unadorned, dreamlike or ambiguous as required; and while the “all-human-life-is-here” Dunkirk set-piece epic take has been rightly praised, it’s also worth pointing out the perhaps the most telling shot is that of Vanessa Redgrave simply addressing the camera in the final segment. For a film one of whose many themes is irony, it packs a real emotional punch – it’s nice to see a piece of work which both tugs at the heartstrings and respects the intelligence.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Mercy Seat / Mercury

I was lucky enough to squeeze into Chapter’s packed Media Point last night, for the Welsh premiere of Neil LaBute’s post 9/11 piece “The Mercy Seat”. Presented as a pleasingly mobile rehearsed reading, directed by Gareth Potter, one suspects that with its high-concept plot - an adulterous N.Y.C. couple contemplate using the Twin Towers disaster as a cover for running away together - the audience might have been expecting some faux-liberal, hand-wringing demolition of American values. LaBute, however, is cleverer than that. Instead of the War on Terror, the play’s true subject was a more universal and immutable one – the War Between Men And Women. In fact, the play was at its weakest when attempting to explicitly analyse American-ness, being far more acute when LaBute concentrated on his hot topic – the awful things that boys and girls say and do to one another. Of course, there is a geo-political metaphor:- I remember a quote about Rev. Sydney Smith, who is said to have observed two women shouting at one another from opposite windows and remarked that they would never agree, because they were arguing from different premises; maybe relationships between the sexes, like relations between nations, only succeed when both parties are operating according to similar assumptions, needs and aspirations. Both Lisa Palfrey, as (ostensibly) the senior partner, and Dean Rehman handled LaBute’s legendarily indelicate dialogue admirably (although I think there were a few references they were unfamiliar with), and built up a real sense of tender bitterness. The play was presented as part of Michael Kelligan’s new On The Edge season, and with our entrance fee, as a slap in the face to Islamic Fundamentalism, everyone also got a voucher for a free pint of Vale Of Glamorgan beer. Or maybe it was just a sponsorship thing. In any case, it was much needed after a tense and sweaty but highly stimulating 100 minutes of dramatic genius.

Hats off the The Klaxons for winning the Mercury Music Prize, even though I was rooting for Bat For Lashes. It was heartening to note that most of the nominees were making music which couldn’t have existed, say, five years ago. And even those that weren’t (e.g. Fionn Regan, Young Knives), do their thing with some style. Although I respect Amy Winehouse (I was lucky enough to win a competition to see her playing at Cardiff Barfly a couple of years ago, and was struck by how small and normal she seemed whilst wandering around in her jogging bottoms and bendy curlers before she went on), I’m pleased she didn’t win – she’d only have spent the money on sweeties and fizzy pop, or whatever it is young people are into these days.