Blakeson - Writer
Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Sunday, May 26, 2013
"Diary Of A Madman"
An unusually hectic day on Friday - I managed to get back from an exciting early evening script meeting just in time for my latest British Theatre Guide reviewing assignment at Sherman Cymru: "Diary Of A Madman". A disturbing and powerful tragi-comedy, derived from the short story by Nikolai Gogol which is, luckily, freely available on the web, so I was able to do my homework beforehand. I felt some slight unease at a nervous breakdown being presented as entertainment, but the piece's satirical intent is clear, and Robert Bowman portrays the central character as sympathetic despite himself. My second Living Pictures production in a short space of time, and bound for the Edinburgh Fringe, where it deserves to find an appreciative audience.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
"Star Trek Into Darkness"
I've always been a fan of the Star Trek franchise, but not an obsessive one; so I was quite pleased when J.J. Abrams subtly rewrote the rules of the universe in his first film adaptation in 2009. "Star Trek Into Darkness" builds on this promising beginning with a solid storyline, focussing on treachery at the heart of the Federation; and the requisite flashy visuals, sufficiently immersive even in 2D. Benedict Cumberbatch is a truly imposing super-villain (although, as Javier Bardem discovered after "Skyfall", such dominant performances in popcorn cinema rarely win the deserved awards); and Zachary Quinto as Spock does an excellent job of being, somewhat ironically, the emotional heart of the piece; indeed, all the principals get their chance to shine. And yes, Chris Pine's Kirk is annoyingly cocky; the shoot-em-up action sequences are incoherent; and the cameo from a Roddenberry veteran is somewhat shoehorned in - but this is all par for the course. I wasn't even offended by the totally gratuitous shot of Alice Eve in her underwear. Highly entertaining stuff. And there's even a Tribble.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
"Say It With Flowers"
My latest assignment for the British Theatre Guide is a review of “Say It With Flowers” at Sherman Cymru; a biographical drama with music starring Ruth Madoc, based on the tempestuous life of Welsh-born singer Dorothy Squires. There were some spectacular moments, and lovely performances, especially from Lynn Hunter and musical theatre actress Gillian Kirkpatrick; but it was let down by some soapy dialogue. Which, of course, doesn’t mean it won’t be the “bums-on-seats” success the Sherman needs…
Friday, May 17, 2013
Picnic Play @ Clwyd Theatr Cymru
Had a good day this week – my first ever trip to Clwyd Theatr Cymru in Mold, where Dirty Protest had arranged a rehearsed reading of my play “Songs For Swinging Lovers”. This was as one of the Picnic Plays which Theatr Clwyd are staging as part of their Celtic Festival, in the venue’s Clwyd Room, with the cast, script-in-hand, faced with a small (but somewhat less small than I expected) audience, sat arranged on cushions and at picnic tables. Actors Keiron Self and Sara Lloyd Gregory (both of whose performances in “Love And Money” I’d recently reviewed, prior to discovering that they were going to work on a piece of mine), along with Jenny Livsey and Sam Jones, presented my “dark comedy with a vague wife-swapping theme”, under the direction of Matthew Bulgo. It seemed to go well – laughs and silences in the right places, kind words from audience-members afterwards. We were even, courtesy of Kate Wasserberg, given a tour of the impressive building, as well as refreshments. I have no idea whether the play will go any further, but the reading was certainly a useful experience in terms of gauging its effectiveness as drama, and spotting areas where it might be tweaked. I’m very grateful to all concerned.
And the next day, when I returned to Cardiff, I had some more possible, vaguely encouraging news re my writing about which more later, if all goes well.
Thursday, May 09, 2013
"Salt, Root and Roe"
I went to see Tim Price’s “Salt, Root and Roe”, a Clwyd Theatr Cymru production, playing at Sherman Cymru (not as a British Theatre Guide review assignment, because of a conflict of interest – see below). Its star-studded run at the Trafalgar Studios in 2011 was nominated for an Olivier Award; and it’s always good to see a piece by a Welsh playwright getting that rare second production.
It is the story of two elderly, widowed twins, Anest (Betsan Llwyd) and Iola (Sara Harries-Davies), facing up to mortality on the West Wales coast, with the intervention of Anest’s tightly-wound daughter, Menna (Catrin Aaron), and local policeman Gareth (Brendan Charleson), both of whom, it emerges, have severe problems of their own. Emotionally wrenching, and highly accomplished on all levels. Ruth Hall’s set is minimal and evocative, and Kate Wasserberg’s sensitive direction manages to foreground the humour even as we sail, inevitably, into the darkness. A heart-warming family tragedy; which seems a uniquely Welsh concept.
The conflict of interest mentioned above comes about because the company which Tim Price co-founded, Dirty Protest, are staging a rehearsed reading of a play of mine, “Songs For Swinging Lovers”, as one of the Picnic Plays at Clwyd Theatr Cymru next week. Should be a useful exercise – if I can manage to find the venue.
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Sunday, May 05, 2013
Friday, May 03, 2013
My latest reviewing assignment for British Theatre Guide was to go and see “Spangled” by Mercury Theatre Wales at Chapter; a devised play inspired by the rave scene of the 1990s. Based around the kind of music I tend to avoid, but rather enjoyable, and cleverly done, despite some technical issues and a few (justifiable) clichés. And I got the chance to dig out an old quote by Malcolm McLaren about discotheques being “temples of despair and loneliness”.