Blakeson - Writer

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

Thursday, April 28, 2011

“The Perplexing Puzzle of the Pedigree Pet and the Policeman”

The latest play-reading in the On The Edge season at Chapter was a rare foray into comedy – Terry Victor’s “The Perplexing Puzzle of the Pedigree Pet and the Policeman”, first produced in 1981, in which supercilious detective Shirley Holmes and her hapless assistant Joan Watson investigate a particularly icky murder. The author also directed, cleverly making a comic virtue of the script-in-hand aesthetic, and the performers Rebecca Knowles (Holmes), Rhian Cheyne (Watson), Liz Gardner (the older Watson, narrator and MC), Natalie Paisey (damsel in distress) and Aled Herbert (stagehand and chief suspect) were obviously enjoying themselves. The play would certainly have benefited from having some of the references updated (the SPG, Sham ’69, etc), and the integration between the old-school and modern elements of the narrative (e.g. the urban riot) seemed a little awkward to me. On the whole, though, jolly fun.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Desire Lines

Ian Rowlands’ new play “Desire Lines”, a Sherman Cymru production at Chapter, Cardiff (whose 40th anniversary party was in full swing on the night I attended) is structured with deceptive simplicity – a man in late middle age muses on his life whilst on a long rail/bus journey through a metaphorical Wales (towns with such names as Chavton, Dullage, and Bluerinse Bay; there is a helpful glossary in the programme/playtext), his reflections impinged upon by those of his fellow travellers. Add Rowland’s poetically profane way with dialogue (something of a speciality here in South Wales), Irina Brown’s fluent direction, clever stage and sound design - occasionally illuminated rail-tracks, frequently re-arranged seating, angelic singing, a video backdrop reflecting the onstage drama (a blurred moving landscape, hazy wallpaper, a sunset) - and vivid performances, and what we get is something almost magical. Ifan Huw Dafydd is engagingly vibrant as the Man, with Sue Roderick as his wife, a wordless, nebulous presence until the play’s climax, and Huw Garmon, Alys Thomas and Joshua McCord multi-tasking as other characters, some in whom the central character is invested, and others who have dreams, tragedies, insecurities and over-loud mobile phone conversations of their own to deal with. The occasional rants about Welsh-English tensions, although central to the motivations of the central protagonists (and indeed the author), seemed to belong to a different play, however, tending to disrupt the elegiac tone and yank me out of the drama (but maybe that’s just my Englishness getting in the way); and some of the non-Welsh accents need a little work. For the most part, however, it’s an utterly entrancing journey.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tati's Hotel - The Premiere

A sunny 9th of April saw my second BAFTA Cymru premiere of the year at Cardiff’s Cineworld; this time for a project in which I was actually involved :- “Tati’s Hotel”, the new CITV series from Machine Productions. Not as many industry luminaries in evidence as for “Baker Boys” (it was a Saturday morning, after all), but lots of little people, including my niece Cicely and nephew Linden, who are in the appropriate demographic. Four episodes were shown in all, written by Oli Jefferey, Angharad Devonald (who were also in attendance), prolific children’s TV writer Gerard Foster, and myself. The series is about Tati, a young girl who runs a magical hotel; in every 11-minute narrative, a special guest stays, and a lesson about life is somehow learned, in a (one hopes) humorous manner. “Magical” is the appropriate word for the production, given that it was shot in a freezing cold warehouse on an industrial estate in Grangetown – the look is delightful, the cast are universally excellent, and the stories are charming, especially if one gets in touch with one’s inner seven year-old (no problem for me). My episode, “Alien” (theme :– “it’s good to be different”, featuring Sion Pritchard as Quexly), was shown last, and despite the fact that some of the younger audience-members were growing restless, it seemed to go down well. Afterwards there were Welsh cakes and balloons, and Mya-Lecia Naylor (Tati) and Elinor Crawley (Dizzee, the ballet-dancing chambermaid) were around for photo-opportunities, along with Chester the Cat. A lovely morning.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Source Code

Source Code, like its predecessor, Duncan Jones’ debut feature, the excellent Moon, centres upon a sensitive male protagonist in existential science-fiction crisis. The new film, however, is on a far bigger scale, and none the worse for that. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a pilot who is repeatedly transported into the body of a passenger on a Chicago train which is about to be blown up by a terrorist – he has eight minutes to investigate before being returned to a mysterious military lab. Very Twilight Zone, not to mention Quantum Leap (whose star, Scott Bakula, has a poignant voice-only cameo). Thanks to an ingenious script by Ben Ripley, and excellent supporting performances from Michelle Monaghan as the ridiculously cute love interest, Vera Farmiga as Gyllenhaal’s military contact, and the (occasionally over-acting) Jeffrey Wright as the cynical boffin, it maintains its humanity whilst cleverly sending up the “ticking-clock” Hollywood screenwriting orthodoxy. Towards the end, a legendary film by Dalton Trumbo is called to mind (to say more would constitute a huge spoiler), and while the conclusion maybe adds a little too much confusing SF elaboration, it remains gripping throughout. This is commercial cinema doing what it does best: taking the viewer on a satisfying roller-coaster ride.

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