Blakeson - Writer

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

Monday, October 19, 2009

"District 9 " / "Cardboard Dad"

I finally got round to seeing “District 9”, and greatly enjoyed Neill Blonkamp’s engagingly clever sci-fi thriller/satire on the asylum/refugee issue (cf “Alien Nation”). The most important plot-hole (“why don’t they use a prawn to fire the weapon”), as pointed out by listeners to Mayo and Kermode on BBC Radio 5 did bother me, though. Sharlto Copley is excellent as Wikus, the hapless, reluctant hero, David James as the lead soldier is compellingly repugnant, and the CGI aliens are seamlessly rendered. The obvious set-up for the inevitably disappointing sequel was faintly dismaying, however.

My fear, prior to watching Alan Harris’s “Cardboard Dad” at the Sherman Cymru, was that given the play’s inspiration – the American practice of providing cardboard cut-outs of serving soldiers to their families, so that the children don’t forget what they look like – it might be a one-dimensional “issues” play about the plight of Army wives or the iniquity of war. Luckily it throws a curveball by providing something more nuanced, humorous, and dramatically satisfying. Shelley Rees (well-known in these parts on account of her many years in “Pobol y Cwm”) plays Donna, who fantasises and reminisces while husband David is abroad. Hers is rather a big performance, but appropriate given the character’s emotional immaturity; and Juliet Knight’s direction veers towards the balletic, cleverly evoking Donna’s dysfunctional dreaminess. This being the woman’s story, David is given relatively short shrift, but Simon Nehan ably embodies the groundedness which Donna appears to lack, in both real and fantasy incarnations of his character. If I have a criticism, it’s that the worrisome snippets of information about Donna’s unorthodox upbringing which we were given might have been explored more fully, all the better to illuminate her journey towards self-realisation.


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