Blakeson - Writer

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

Sunday, July 31, 2011


I had avoided previous versions of “Muscle” from Shock ‘n’ Awe Performance Co. Ltd, since I’d assumed from the publicity materials, suggesting that it was an exploration of the nature of manhood, that it would be something of a whinge about “masculinity in crisis”. When I finally caught up with it, at Chapter Arts Centre, in its third, Edinburgh-bound incarnation, I was delighted to discover that I was mistaken. Yes, it does involve men talking about their feelings, but since they are largely South Wales men, the cringe factor is minimal. Derived from interviews, and shaped into an engagingly physical performance piece by playwright Greg Cullen and choreographer Phil Williams, it presents stories from life as told by a variety of men (old, young, black, white, gay, straight), flawlessly played by Hugh Thomas, Sule Rimi, Dean Rehman, Lee Mengo and newcomer Lewis Reeves. It is structured as a selection of monologues, playlets, mimes, songs, shaggy dog stories, and narrative dance interludes (all the more resonant for being performed by non-dancers); deftly framed by Angharad Matthews’ deceptively stage simple design, enhanced by the music of Benjamin Talbott, and confronting universal human complexities and contradictions in a dramatically satisfying manner. Towards the end, one long tale of tragic family dysfunction threatens to over-balance things, but the authors cleverly pull back from the brink, leading us towards a celebratory climax. It’s not often that one emerges from the theatre feeling positive about oneself, but “Muscle” did the trick for me.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wales' National Museum of Art

Business was pretty brisk when I paid my first visit to Wales new National Museum of Art, i.e. the extended first- (and in an exciting development, second-) floor exhibition-space at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, bringing together familiar pieces (e.g. the world-renowned collection of impressionists; works by the old Welsh Masters – the Johns, Ceri Richards etc.), new exhibits, and presumably a lot of stuff that’s been in storage – notably (unless I’ve missed them previously), a startlingly vivid Himalayan landscape by Edward Lear, and a hypnotic wintry Valleys scene by Ernest Zobole. The contemporary work includes Jeremy Deller’s Manic Street Preachers installation, a miniature stone circle by Richard Long, and Common Culture’s amusingly celebratory “takeaway” experience. In fact, for the first time in my 30 years of casually popping in, it’s all too diverse and dazzling to take in in a single session; which can only be a good thing.