Blakeson - Writer

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

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Betty Blue Eyes

Despite being a big fan of the work of Alan Bennett (like all right-thinking people), I’ve thus far managed not to see A Private Function, his first outing for the big screen. I bought my ticket for Betty Blue Eyes at the Novello Theatre, the new comic musical which has been adapted from it, because the options for matinee performances in London on the day in question were limited, and I anticipated that it would be cheerier than the alternatives – Butley at the nearby Duchess Theatre came a close second, and I’m sure War Horse is brilliant, but I didn’t fancy it as a birthday distraction. “Betty” is not without contemporary political resonances, of course, the background of the plot being the nationwide celebration of a royal wedding, supposedly lifting the nation at a time of austerity; class is also an issue, as always in Britain. Reece Shearsmith was excellent in the most nuanced role, that of the soft-hearted small town chiropodist who takes drastic action after being stymied in his career aspirations, stung into action by his social-climbing wife, engagingly played by Kirsty Hoiles (standing in for Sarah Lancashire). Adrian Scarborough also relished his turn as the SS-styled meat inspector; indeed, each of the featured players had a chance to shine with a cleverly-judged song (“Magic Fingers” being a particular highlight). The star of the piece, however, is the title character, the animatronic pig, an impressive (if not quite miraculous) creation, which elicited gasps of admiration from the largely youthful audience (if the Grand Circle was in any way representative; they also appreciated the off-colour jokes) every time it appeared. The set design was an even more stunning achievement, with rotating platforms and constantly shifting backdrops providing clever, filmic transitions between diverse locations – the war-time flashback is especially poignant and shocking. This is what large-scale commercial musical theatre, at its best, is all about – spectacle, big tunes, “hopes, fears, laughter, tears”, and effortless universal relevance. Ridiculously enjoyable.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"King Horse" - short film

My latest short film - available to view on Youtube and Vimeo. Title stolen from Elvis Costello.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

X-Men: First Class

I’ve always enjoyed the “X-Men” movies, despite having no interest in the comic-book source material and, especially in the case of the third film, “The Last Stand”, only a vague idea of what was happening onscreen. My expectations of Matthew Vaughn’s prequel, “X Men: First Class”, were fairly low, however, largely because of middling reviews. And yes, the plot (super-villain pits the super-powers against one another) is over-familiar, some of the smaller special effects are somewhat under-whelming, and there appear to be a couple of jarring anachronisms for a film largely set in 1962 (although a premature mini-skirt or two is probably a minor quibble given the script’s rewriting of the history of the Cuban Missile Crisis). The performances, though, are flawless (as far as that’s possible in a film about mutants with superpowers), and despite a somewhat disjointed start, the film gradually compels as we hurtle towards the explosive and poignant climax. The protagonists’ predicament – whether to fulfil your potential and embrace difference, necessitating a turn to the dark side; or to take the moral high ground, keep your head down, and risk annihilation – has a clever contemporary relevance, especially given the concentration-camp element of the narrative. Despite, or perhaps because of this, it’s jolly fun.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Darwin Deez

The breathlessly anticipated (at least by me) Darwin Deez gig was relocated from Cardiff’s Millennium Music Hall to the Student’s Union – inexplicably, the Solus bar rather than the Great Hall; even more inexplicably, tickets were still available on the night. First in support were locally-based OK, who seemed highly appreciative of the opportunity to play to a big crowd; they served up some very entertaining, excitable punky pop, although it seemed to be aiming at a niche already ably filled by The Wombats. Next on the bill were Birmingham-based electro quartet Jake Bullit, who came across as a wimpier Hot Chip, but with some amusingly bitchy lyrics.

The headliners were well worth waiting for.  Forged in the creative furnace which is New York City, I guess they’ve they’ve had to come up with something distinctive - aside from their wonderful, sunny/dark pop songs - in order to progress; hence Darwin Smith’s  Hasidic hippie hair-do and the amusingly shambolic inter-song dance routines. It made for peerless entertainment as they more than did justice to the material from their excellent debut album, augmenting it with unlikely mash-ups, the occasional rap, and some amusing cover versions (e.g. a grungy take on Coldplay’s “Lost”). An exuberant show, rapturously received.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

My New Short Film - "Proverb"

Available to view on Youtube