Blakeson - Writer

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

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Gulliver / Undeb's "The Project"

As one of the millions who suffer from False Memory Syndrome when it comes to having read “Gulliver’s Travels”, I found Hijinx Theatre’s touring production (I saw it at the Sherman Cymru) of “Gulliver”, written by Kit Lambert and directed by Louise Osborne, every bit as topical as intended. It was also highly enjoyable – witty, visually imaginative, and flawlessly acted. Brendan Charleson plays Jonathan Swift as a man struggling both with his fears of madness and his feelings for his young friend Esther Johnson (Zoe Davies). He is visited by Doctor Gulliver (Michael Wagg), who spins him tall tales of misadventures in strange lands, the cast being completed by James Ashton who provides the broadest comedy in a number of small roles. The various worlds are cleverly conjured up via the use of dolls, masks and an engagingly clunky mobile set, and James Williams score is moving and amusing as appropriate. Given, however, that many of Swift’s targets - youths running wild, petty war-mongering, corrupt politicians, social inequality – continue to trouble us nearly 300 years on, the most worrisome impression left by the piece is of the abiding imperfectness of the human condition; not to mention the powerlessness of satire to achieve anything other than increasing the sum total of cynicism in the world.

Kit (who was having rather a good week, his episode of BBC Wales’ “Crash” having aired a few days earlier, in addition to his appearances on BBC Radio 4’s “Poetry Slam”), also featured as part of the inaugural production by Undeb Theatre :- “The Project” – a Sunday-long event held at Cardiff nightclub 10 Feet Tall. He took part in a performance poetry hour, where his literate surrealism contrasted well with the approaches taken by the other versifiers, Jack Stannard (humorous Essex youth angst), Mab Jones (tales of Cardiff low-life) and Byron Vincent, whose machine-gun speed stand-up was particularly winning. It was probably a bad idea to have the performance space adjacent to the entrance, though. Earlier in the day, Louise Osborne chaired a discussion featuring John McGrath (National Theatre Of Wales), James Grieve (Nabokov/ Bush Theatre), Phil Mackenzie (Sherman Cymru) and Jamie Garven (Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama) which focused on the personal impact of theatre and the role of the director – a lively and instructive session. Bands, DJ’s, comedy and painting also featured, as well as plays by London writers Abi Zakarian and Joel Horwood, the entertainment continuing well into the early hours. I left in mid-evening, however, after a duo of short pieces by locally-based writers: “Rotten” by Undeb’s Artistic Director Alex Vlahos, a two-hander about a suicide pact which boasted some good writing and performances, but whose narrative set-up seemed overly contrived; and “Dad Astronaut” by the company’s writer-in-residence Samuel Bees :- Gareth Potter and Caitlin Richards in a highly effective family drama which veered in tone from the elegiac to the whimsical to the tragically sinister. Not bad at all for a £4 entry fee, and it’s encouraging to see young artists generating their own work and being rewarded by a full house.


Blogger Samuel Bees said...

Thank you for the review, I'm glad you think that we're doing something worthwhile.

- Samuel Bees (Undeb).

12:22 AM  
Blogger tom_undeb said...

thanks for the review. it was a manic affair and we hope to really improve our future projects. keep involved as we hope to move on to bigger and better things!

12:28 AM  

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