Blakeson - Writer

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

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire / The Bells Of Shoreditch

Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” is richly deserving of all the plaudits flooding its way. It’s a remarkably vivid and fast-moving roller-coaster ride through the life of a Mumbai slum survivor, the narrative conceit being that his story is told via the answers to questions on the edition of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” on which he is competing. The film appears to be being sold as some kind of fairy-tale, but although the ending is uplifting, there are some truly horrifying moments along the way. The cinematography is colourful and kinetic without ever losing focus on the story, which is a familiar one (two brothers, one good, one bad, and the girl who defines their relationship), given a compelling spin by the foregrounding of Fate. Some people are describing it as “poverty porn”, which is nonsense – we are spared none of the grimness and despair of the street-children portrayed, and the filmmakers are making the effort to ensure that their child actors benefit materially from their participation. Peddling hope rather wallowing in other people’s misery, this is social surrealism at its finest.

The first “development” production by Dirty Protest took place in Cardiff’s Sherman Cymru over the past few days - of a script-in-hand but otherwise fully staged production of company co-founder Tim Price’s “The Bells Of Shoreditch”. The premise involves Paul (Mark Arends) advertising for bed-mates in order to combat his urban isolation, albeit from a platonic distance. A highly enjoyable, amusing and heartfelt piece, although I have a few caveats (e.g. the fact that the author seemed so intent on avoiding the obvious feel-good conclusion that the ending came across as somewhat abrupt). The performances were uniformly excellent (as is customary on the Cardiff fringe), and Vicky Jones’ direction was exemplary – a “montage” sequence late on was especially effective. Very well attended, too, with tickets at £5 each – although one wonders at the potential for full-price repeat business for a “tweaked” version further down the line.

Friday, January 09, 2009

"Dreams From My Father"

My festive reading over the past couple of weeks consisted of a rediscovery of Stephen Fry’s debut novel, “The Liar”, and U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama’s “Dreams From My Father”- linked via Fry’s autobiographical masterpiece “Moab Is My Washpot”, since “The Liar” is the fictionalised version of his early life, and “Dreams” is a similarly intense and elegant account of a notable individual’s formative years, and the experiences, encounters and influences that maketh the man. Obama’s book is a revelation – not only beautifully written, but also very effectively nailing America’s (and therefore the world’s) obsession with ethnicity, via an examination of his own multi-cultural background. He’s understandably reticent when it comes to his druggy adolescence and early romantic adventures, but provides ample evidence of the thesis that progress will only be made when more people realise that their history should be a springboard rather than a prison. Nobody who reads this book will be in any doubt that he’s almost committee-designed to be a Great President. But probably destined to fail, if only because there’s no such thing.