Blakeson - Writer

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

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"Cloud Atlas" (The Film)

Not having read David Mitchell’s novel “Cloud Atlas”, I approached the cinematic adaptation with a feeling of trepidation, largely because of the book’s “unfilmable” tag; not to mention the three hour running time, and its lukewarm reception in the U.S.  Thankfully my fears were unfounded, since it’s something of a triumph. It’s structured as half a dozen interwoven tales of love, rebellion and sacrifice, across a variety of genres (science-fiction, 1970's conspiracy thriller, Ealing-style farce…) with each set in a different time period. It’s not so simplistic as to have Tom Hanks and Halle Berry taking precisely equivalent roles in each tale, but the actors do recur – Hugo Weaving ever-effective as a heavy, and Hugh Grant as a scoundrel; and Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae, Jim Sturgess and Ben Whishaw shine in their individual segments. Andy and Lana Wachowski, working with Tom Tykwer as screenwriters and directors, give us much visual spectacle, and manage to juxtapose elements from the diverse (mercifully straightforward) narratives in such a way as to guarantee a degree of coherence, without spoon-feeding us too unsubtly with Significance. There is also a good deal of humour, although a little of it is unintentional, since some of the age- and race-altering make-up is distractingly dubious. On the whole, though, “Cloud Atlas” is hugely entertaining, and a welcome return to form for the Wachowski siblings.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"Coming To Terms"

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

NME Tour 2013 - Cardiff

Occasionally over the past few years, I’ve managed to organise myself sufficiently to purchase a ticket for the Cardiff University Students' Union date on the NME Awards Tour – thus I’ve managed to catch such acts as The Killers, Florence and the Machine and Everything Everything before they became inaccessible to the casual concert-goer. This year, the show came at the end of an intense weekend at a writing workshop, so I was in the mood to celebrate.

I got there in time to catch most of the opening set by Birmingham band Peace; a fuzzy, raucous but disciplined sound, with plenty of catchy guitar licks. Next up were the Parma Violets, who set their stall out by being played on by a Damned song (obviously released long before they were born) – looser and more rambunctious than Peace, with fewer distinctive melodies, but with impressive use of organ, alternately playful and portentous; some amusing interaction with the audience as well. The natural headliner was Miles Kane, which was why it was a surprise when he came on third:- one was instantly impressed by his seemingly effortless swaggering professionalism, and his tunes, especially “Inhaler”, have the epic qualities to back it up. Headlining were Django Django, who made an immediate impression with clever use of video screens at the back of the stage; rather more heavily rhythmic than I’d expected, given the glitchier, electronic nature of their singles as heard on the radio; maybe it was my fatigued state, combined with a couple of glugs of cider (and possibly satanic messages being beamed into my brain via video), but I found them somewhat hypnotic and charming. Didn’t quite top Miles, though.

Maybe the show suffered from a lack of variety (not to mention females), but there was more than enough spirit and inventiveness on show here to suggest that the “indie slump” is truly at an end.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, February 18, 2013

Notes on a “Writing in Community Settings” workshop

This was a weekend workshop, in Cardiff Bay, organised by CULT Cymru, at the suggestion of a Writers’ Guild member who saw such courses advertised in the South of England; a way of exploring how writers might find work in therapeutic environments (e.g. hospitals, prisons), amongst those who seek to explore writing as a means of self-expression, healing or personal development; although, as it turned out, there was much that could be applicable to anyone thinking of setting up a writers' group in the wider community.

The workshop was led by Graham Hartill, poet and highly experienced facilitator, who works part-time at Parc Prison in Bridgend and teaches on the MSc in “Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes”, based in Bristol, via Middlesex University. The group was a mixed one – a few professional writers, but mostly people working on social care projects (e.g. drug rehab, oral history, with Alzheimers patients), seeking to use creative writing as part of their work.

I won’t go into great detail, but the course was structured thus:

Day 1 – the basics (setting up a respectful ambience within a writing group, the need for the group itself to construct the ground-rules, looking at practicalities such as access, etc. ). Then an individual writing exercise, based on a suggested title – written in a few minutes, and shared with the group (sharing not compulsory). This was followed by a discussion of the nature of the pieces, and the field of “therapeutic writing” as a whole (book recommendation – “The Self On The Page” edited by Celia Hunt and Fiona Sampson). Next came a collaborative exercise, with people working in pairs to explore issues around transcribing (and respecting) other people’s stories. Finally some theoretical concepts were introduced, notably “reflexivity” – the importance of being aware of what you, as a facilitator, bring to the group (e.g. values, prejudices, limitations, propensity to be critical of both work and people).

Day 2 began with a recap of issues raised on Day 1. After this, each participant was asked to outline a project that they were either working on, or would like to; these formed the basis of a group discussion, looking at the multiplicity of issues that arose (practical, legal, financial, ethical, emotional). This was followed by another individual writing exercise, which was then transformed into a group exercise. The day concluded with general discussion of practicalities in terms of further training, funding etc.

A fascinating couple of days, and a valuable introduction to an area of work in which I have no experience whatsoever. And it was certainly clear that considerations which apply to the setting up of writing groups in clinical/penal contexts would certainly apply in the “outside” world – the importance of creating an atmosphere of mutual respect, the need to have clear outcomes in mind, the tricky issue of getting paid for your work etc. The course may have focussed on “vulnerable” would-be writers in formal therapeutic settings; but one doesn’t have to be in an institution to feel vulnerable, to feel the need to use self-expression as therapy, and to want to seek out a supportive environment in which to do so.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, February 11, 2013

"Pain has an element of blank..." by Emily Dickinson

Labels: , , ,

Friday, February 08, 2013

"Sexual Perversity in Chicago"

As a devotee and student of the work of David Mamet, I leapt at the opportunity to review Living Pictures production of “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” at the Sherman Cymru for the British Theatre Guide. I treated myself to a birthday trip to see it in London’s effervescent West End several years ago – a production starring Matthew Perry, Hank Azaria, Minnie Driver and Kelly Reilly. This production is on a somewhat smaller scale, and rather less starry (although it does feature Claire Cage, who's featuring in BBC3’s “Being Human” at the time of writing) but no less effective for that. It’s dominated by the bear-like figure of Robert Bowman, who is also the director. As I say in my review, it’s quite heartening to see that the sophisticated Cardiff theatre audience hasn’t grown so jaded that some of the language used and opinions expressed can no longer elicit gasps of shock. 

Labels: , , , ,