Blakeson - Writer

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"Downtown Paradise"

The latest in the Welsh  Fargo Stage Company’sOn The Edge” series of play-readings (at Chapter, Cardiff) was a presentation of Mark Jenkins’ “Downtown Paradise”, an account of a collision between black and white radicalism in 1970s America, first produced by the author himself in the 1990s. From the outset, it is made clear that the story of Jewish lawyer Rachel’s attempt to secure the release from prison of the articulate and politically engaged Wilson will have an unfortunate conclusion; but the journey is a fascinating, engaging, and, on occasion, darkly humorous one. Sule Rimi is remarkably charismatic as the radical and defiantly imperfect jailbird, Claire Cage all tough tenderness as the cynically idealistic heroine, the writing is slick and convincing (at least to my non-American ears), and director Michael Kelligan keeps things flowing with great deftness for the most part (although I felt that the violent climax could have been handled more subtly). This is absorbing political theatre of a kind which seems, in the post 9/11 age, to be growing rarer – the kind which asks questions of the audience rather than simplistically demanding its agreement.


A link to my latest project: “Sons of Nervous Lovers”, a crime novella, exclusive to Amazon’s Kindle Store.

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dirty Protest - Mayday

It’s been a while since I attended a Dirty Protest evening of script-in-hand play readings (largely because the company's devotion to non-traditional venues tends to exclude those whose middle-aged joints protest at one's having to sit crouched on the floor for an hour), but I went along to their latest presentation, in the downstairs theatre at the Bunkhouse bar/hotel in central Cardiff, and thoroughly enjoyed it, as ever (especially since I selfishly managed to nab a seat). Curated by Debi Mclean, with a vague "Mayday" theme, and directed by Matthew Bulgo and Sara Lloyd, the pieces were unashamedly crowd-pleasing, perhaps the least traditional being an very funny format-subverting monologue by Ceri Elen. There was also an adoption tale with a comic twist, by D.C. Jackson; Tudur Owen’s relationship-crisis comedy set in a rowing-boat; Daniel Glyn’s amusing mediation on a bilingual Cardiff upbringing; Jams Thomas’ witty take on the lives of IKEA shop-workers; and cherry-popper Lowri Owen bucking the sit-com-ish trend with a poignant childbirth reminiscence; with TV veteran Keiron Self’s graphic-novel-inflected first date tragi-comedy providing a satisfying conclusion. Actors Lee Mengo, Non Haf, Rhian Blythe and Ffion Williams were reliably excellent, and seemed to be enjoying themselves, as did the capacity crowd. A good night out.

Random reflections on a recent visit to the Tate Modern:- it provides a heartening couple of hours of mental/spiritual nourishment even when not all the galleries are in operation, and some of the most notable exhibits are elsewhere; it was interesting to see lots of Japanese visitors checking out the Yayoi Kusama exhibition; I didn’t pay to see the Damien Hirst show, but I couldn’t resist shelling out for a set of fridge-magnets; the room full of anti-Nazi propaganda posters by John Heartfield was especially striking. Well worth the hassle of the seven-hour round trip on the Megabus.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2012

"Avengers Assemble"

Having not been thus far tempted to go and see any of the current run of 3D cinema releases (other than Scorsese’s “Hugo”, which I regret having missed out on), the good reviews prompted me to make the effort to take in “Avengers Assemble” and, on the whole, I’m glad I did. I’ve also been remiss when it comes to catching up on the individual films from Hollywood’s version of the Marvel universe, with the exception of the first “Iron Man”, so I feared that I’d be lost amid a multitude of back-references. I assume there were some, but it didn’t get in the way of such story as there was – basically, superheroes team up to try and stop a bad guy from taking over the world. If it succeeds, it’s because of writer-director Joss Whedon’s witty way with dialogue, and engaging performances from an excellent cast, notably a wisecracking Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo as the over-sensitive sometime Hulk, a delightfully edgy Scarlett Johanssen (The Black Widow) and Tom Hiddlestone, magnetic as the villain, Loki - there are also welcome appearances from familiar faces such as Cobie Smulders, Gwyneth Paltrow, Harry Dean Stanton and Jenny Agutter. Whedon’s clever enough to turn a possible negative – too many superheroes as Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Nick Fury also come into play – into a positive by making the various intersections of their vulnerabilities vital to the plot. As for the 3D element, aside from a few dislocatory moments, it only really comes into its own during the climactic battle sequence towards the end (not a spoiler, since, of course, there’s always a climactic battle sequence towards the end). Jolly fun.

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