Blakeson - Writer

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

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

"Utah Blue" / CSS

I went to see a long-overdue revival of Dic EdwardsUtah Blue”, at Sherman Cymru at the weekend. Inspired by the rehearsed reading put on as part of Michael Kelligan’s “On The Edge” programme in 2005, in which the two male cast-members took part, it was the debut production by Give It A Name, and was highly impressive. A poetic, profane meditation on the wasted life of Gary Gilmore, whose execution in 1976 ended the United States decade-long moratorium on the death penalty (and owing an acknowledged debt to Norman Mailer’sThe Executioner’s Song”), it was first produced by Made In Wales in 1995. This show, directed by Phillip Mackenzie, was a 75-minute canter through the piece, with a set (designed by Rhys Meyrick) consisting simply of three moveable black walls, allowing the actors to seemingly float through an empty, finite universe, occasionally posing, occasionally seeming to appear out of nowhere, and with Dean Rehman’s fatally Alpha-male Gary being literally imprisoned at one point. John Norton played Michael Gilmore, who spends the play struggling to comprehend his big brother’s determination to end his own life – there were inevitable “My Name Is Earl” resonances, and the line-dancing motif situated us clearly in trailer-trash country; his is probably the richest role, since this is the only character who appears to make any kind of journey (the real life “Mikal” Gilmore subsequently found success as a writer). Zoe Davies as Gary’s sexpot girlfriend Nicole was compelling, and Beth House, as the Gilmores’ mother, was effective even though she had relatively little to do, perhaps inevitably, since she’s the play’s quiet, moral centre, and the voluble central character rejects conventional morality. Both the Sherman and the company seemed to be selling “Utah Blue” as some kind of anti-death-penalty polemic, which is problematic since although Gary Gilmore was, by all accounts, a talented painter and wordsmith with a high IQ, he was also a career petty criminal and habitual drug-user, who indisputably committed two senseless murders and, according to Edwards’ text, claimed that his own execution was necessary for the restoration of cosmic balance (citing Spinoza as a reference). A couple of other caveats - some of the choreography appeared unmotivated, to my untrained eyes, and the TV game-show sequence was marred by unhelpful distortion on the mic. On the whole, though, it was a well-acted and fast-moving rendition of a play which would probably be canonical if it had ever travelled outside Wales.

A couple of days later, MTV’s Spanking New Music Tour reached Cardiff University Students Union. I missed the first couple of songs from MGMT, but enjoyed what I caught of their tuneful, psychedelic wall of sound. The defiantly resurgent Wearside harmonisers Futureheads rocked somewhat harder, “Beginning Of The Twist” having mercifully overtaken “Hounds Of Love” as the highlight of their set. Headliners CSS were obscured by balloons, and the sound quality threatened to submerge us all in a dance-rock sludge, but the quality of the songs, along with Lovefoxx’s infectious enthusiasm carried the day. Lovely night out.


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