Blakeson - Writer

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Straight Talk / A Serious Man

My first visit to the redesigned Chapter Arts centre, with its new airport-lounge style café-bar area, was to see the latest “On The Edge” production – a reading of Straight Talk, Dan Anthony’s clever, verbose (one might even say Stoppardian) comedy about a by-the-book copper and a mysterious, philosophical informant, and their meetings in a park. Pacily directed by Simon West, it was lifted still more by Jams Thomas’ comic timing; John Norton was also impressive as the informant, although his American accent was a tad distracting.

A Serious Man is yet another work of near-genius from Joel and Ethan Coen. About the collapsing life of a Jewish physics professor in 1960s Minneapolis, it restates, with their trademark deadpan meticulousness, their long-standing theme of mostly bad stuff happening with no rhyme or reason. Little-known Michael Stuhlbarg is excellent in the leading role, but the cast is littered with “I know the face but not the name” types from U.S. television comedy (Richard Kind, Simon Helberg, Adam Arkin, George Wyner), driving home the suggestion that the deity is laughing at us. There may be a political subtext, about the perils of passivity in the face of Evil; or it may just be that the filmmakers are revelling in the cruel beauty inherent to an irrational universe. Whatever, it’s great fun.

Friday, November 06, 2009

National Theatre of Wales Launch

The new National Theatre of Wales has finally released its inaugural programme of events, in an on-line broadcast which somehow managed to be both slick and shambolic. Kicking off in the spring of 2010, it’s pretty impressive in terms of geographical, thematic and stylistic scope. Thirteen productions dotted all over Wales (Butetown, Barmouth, Bridgend, Brecon…); trendy young(ish) writers (Alan Harris, Gary Owen, Kate O’Reilly); trendy old writers (Gwyn Thomas, Aeschylus, and in a shock move, John Osborne); renowned exponents of physical theatre (Marc Rees, Mike Pearson); an international dimension (Rimini Protokoll); and the occasional world-famous megastar (Michael Sheen, apparently taking over the whole of Port Talbot) – its ambition is admirable. My impression is of a bias towards the visually spectacular and/or media-friendly, but I guess their first job is alerting the populace as to their existence and immediate relevance. Still, it looks as though we’ll have to postpone the whingeing for a while.