Blakeson - Writer

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

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Theatre and Politics @ Sherman Cymru

A few days ago saw an event organised by the Welsh Committee of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain, entitled "Theatre and Politics: The Playwright's Agenda"’ chaired by Gary Owen, and with esteemed guest speakers David Edgar (President of the Guild, and one of the world's most prominent political playwrights), and actor/dramatists Sharon Morgan and Phil Ralph. Taking place at the Sherman Cymru in Cardiff, it was appropriate that discussion should have centred around Phil’s "Deep Cut", a Sherman commission which was back in town after a triumphant run at the Traverse as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and on verbatim theatre in general. A secondary point, from the floor, however, addressed the absence of non-liberal-left voices in contemporary theatre. David Edgar was most eloquent in response, citing his friend Tom Stoppard, as well as the observation that most left-wing theatre is critical of elements of the left, the university education of most theatre-goers (which seems to engender a generally liberal disposition), and the fact that other art-forms, e.g. music, were more suited to, for example, triumphalist celebration of nationalism. His most telling point however was about the dialogic nature of theatre – the fact that characters who articulate political views within a drama are generally challenged, if not in the context of the drama, within the active minds of individual audience-members. It does seem to be the case that it is virtually impossible to have a character express an “extreme” viewpoint without him or her appearing absurd, which is fine if we’re talking about racism, sexism or homophobia, but probably explains why there hasn’t yet been a play which addresses Islamic extremism in anything other than an oblique manner, since such a piece would inevitably generate more heat than light. Perhaps it’s simply the case that the literary form best suited to dogmatism is the letter to the editor.

The only things on my horizon, writing-wise, are two play-readings – “Dirty Something”, at Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre, on Thursday 30th October, alongside Jordi Coca’s “Black Beach”, as part of a Made In Wales/Parthian Books celebration of Catalonian writing (my piece being set in Ibiza); and “See The Glory”, presented by Talawa at London’s Young Vic on Thursday 20th November. I’m very grateful for both opportunities, but it would be quite nice to earn some money at some point.

Friday, September 05, 2008

"Exquisite Corpse" / "God On Trial"

The Edinburgh production of “The Exquisite Corpse” looks like it was a sizeable success, if updates from the production team and press reviews are anything to go by. Only The Stage provided a dissenting voice, referring to it as a shallow parlour-game; however the four-star Guardian review more than made up for that. It remains to be seen whether this will have any implications in terms of future work opportunities.

I’ve just been working on a treatment for a verbatim drama (or, rather, a drama with verbatim elements) about perceptions of the youth crime/gangs issue, which could be good if it comes off. And my play “See The Glory” is to receive a reading at London’s Young Vic, in November, as part of a season which is being sold by the Talawa Theatre Company as a search for “the modern Black Man”. “Charismatic”, my short film, has yet to be accepted by any festivals.

The most notable TV event of late has been the compelling “God On Trial” written by Frank Cottrell Boyce, in which concentration camp inmates subject the Almighty to the due process which they were denied by the Nazis. More than a guilt-massaging wallow in other people’s misery, it provided profound, but highly accessible, and wonderfully acted philosophical debate of a type which is sorely lacking within the popular media. Apparently, a leaflet produced by anti-Nazi campaigners at a recent high-profile protest neglected to mention that Jews were victims of the Holocaust, presumably in a faux-liberal effort to avoid offending Muslims – scandalous. Lest we forget, etc.