Blakeson - Writer

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Submarine / Soft Hearted Scientists

It’s a measure of the extent to which children’s TV is ignored by the mainstream media that Craig Roberts and Yasmine Paige, the highly talented stars of Richard Ayoade’s beautifully wrought feature debut, Submarine, are being described in reviews as newcomers, when they’ve both been paying their dues on CBBC for years. Adapted from Joe Dunthorne’s novel, it’s a tragic-comic rites-of-passage tale focusing on not-entirely-likeable Swansea schoolboy Oliver, his pursuit of the troubled Jordana, and his attempts to save his parents’ marriage - the always excellent and deliciously awkward Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor, neither of whom, mercifully, attempt the accent - from the tawdry attentions of hilariously tacky lifestyle guru, Paddy Considine. Taking its stylistic cue from the French New Wave, rather than the U.S. gross-out teen-movies with which it might be compared narrative-wise, its visual fussiness is entirely in tune with the central character’s self-consciousness and intellectual pretension, and Alex Turner’s lovely songs provide a welcome, sensitive counterpoint to the central theme of profoundly flawed, emotionally unintelligent masculinity. An excellent supporting cast of familiar and unfamiliar Welsh faces, too.

I was lucky enough to attend a rare performance by long-lost local heroes Soft Hearted Scientists (favourites of BBC Radio Wales’ Adam Walton) at Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach a couple of days ago – dreamy, psychedelic electro-folk in the Gorki’s tradition; and we even got a free CD. Supporting was JR, aka Jemma Roper, formerly of Sammo Hung (and behind the bar at the much-missed Barfly), who offered up some characteristically quirky songs, accompanied only by a guitar. The word “pleasant” sounds almost like an insult, but it’s highly appropriate for an evening of classy, subtly experimental musicianship. Five minutes walk away, Kylie was playing, which is the only possible explanation for the relatively low attendance.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Lucid: The Writer's Space

I attended an event called The Writer’s Space, organised by Lucid (South Wales-based Simon Harris and Carys Shannon, who have a wealth of experience on both the creative and administrative side of theatre), supported both by Cardiff's Chapter Arts Centre, where it took place, and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain. Using the Open Space format, and attended by a few dozen playwrights and other theatre professionals of varying levels of experience, the aim was to gauge the general mood in terms of optimism or pessimism about new theatre writing in Wales, and to come up with concrete proposals in order to help the community to make progress. The organisers are certainly to be congratulated for keeping things moving, ensuring that the points for debate came from the attendees themselves, and averting the general whinge-fest that these mini-conferences can degenerate into. I learnt, amongst other things:- that there is a thriving community of playwrights at Cardiff University who seem completely cut off from the rest of the scene in the city; that some new writers are nervous of their work sharing stages with new work by more experienced writers; that writers in Wales are not shy of attempting to sell themselves in London and elsewhere; and that despite the prevalence of social media and plentiful informal networks, the feeling that one is working in isolation is, perhaps inevitably, endemic. Ultimately, it’s clear that that despite the economic crisis, which will inevitably lead to a diminution in the number of opportunities for properly paid work, people will continue to write, because that’s what writers do. If what results from this event is some kind of on-line resource which will enable writers to connect with other writers (and actors, designers, directors etc.) - maybe to form networks to try and develop their work, maybe to see what opportunities are out there, maybe simply to check up on their rivals - it will have been a success.

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