Blakeson - Writer

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

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Mike Leigh’s “Happy-Go-Lucky” is a real treat. It’s a slice-of-London-life comedy-drama starring Sally Hawkins as Poppy, an irrepressibly but not pathologically cheery primary schoolteacher. Given Leigh’s record, it’s hard to watch without the nagging feeling that a bomb’s about to go off at any moment, but the only real darkness comes from the always excellent Eddie Marsan as a deeply disturbed driving instructor. Alexis Zegerman, playing Poppy’s more cynical flatmate, Stanley Townsend as an incoherent derelict, and Karina Fernandez’s flamenco teacher (who gets to play out a classic joke) also score highly. Mercifully, the film is largely free of the whiny, parodic, fake cockney accents which litter many of Leigh’s other works; it’s that rare thing – a feel-good movie which makes one feel good, because it acknowledges negativity and shows people dealing with it.

I managed to get to a few shows in Sherman Cymru’s Springboard/Egin season of New Theatre Writing. The Dirty Protest night was a near sell-out, featuring full performances of outdoors-themed short pieces by Samuel Bees (a poetic story of doomed young love), Tim Price (about a man dealing with his dim, gang-affiliated friend, amongst other tragedies) and Colette Kane, whose Shakespearian take on Notting Hill Carnivalesque medium-jinks was, I felt, the most innovative crowd-pleaser on the night. A couple of days later saw a double-bill featuring Alan Harris’ docu-drama about the closure of the Burberry factory in Treorchy, which was very well done, but raised questions about the concept of verbatim theatre as easy political box-ticking and emotional button-pushing by theatre companies unwilling to trust to the idiosyncrasies of the writer (this may become relevant to me if a projected piece about gang culture gets the green light). The other reading that evening was of veteran Alan Osborne’s “Ebeneser And The Fair Country”, a typically dense, allusive and rewarding tale of slow-burning revenge. The final night saw two takes on the musical: Kit Lambert and Paul Jones’Note/Book”, a vaguely pessimistic romantic comedy; and Tracy Harris and Gindrinker’s “The Push And The Pull”, a dark, kinetic, surreal piece with the musicians firmly integrated into the action. All highly entertaining, but I did overhear a comment questioning the point of a festival encouraging new writing for the stage when there’s so little opportunity in Wales for new writers to develop (and earn more than pocket-money) via full productions; especially when there are so many experienced ones who can’t catch a break. Still, at least the event engendered a good atmosphere, and provided a valuable corrective to those decision-makers who claim that there are no talented, committed dramatists out there.

The only solid news in my career (apart from the continuing, very gratefully received trickling-in of “Tracy Beaker” royalties) is the up-coming Edinburgh Fringe production (funding permitting) of True/Fiction Theatre’sExquisite Corpse” piece, to which I contributed a number of scenes (two at the last count); which will be nice.


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