Blakeson - Writer

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

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Artes Mundi 2014

I paid my regular (i.e. every two years) visit to the 2014 Artes Mundi exhibit – or, at least, those elements of it which are currently housed at Cardiff’s excellent National Museum of Wales. As usual, it’s a disorienting experience.

On entering the space, one’s first experience is of Theaster Gates’ multimedia display, comprising a big-screen amateur gospel video and various iconic objects – notably a stuffed goat on a railroad track; it appears to be a celebration of marginalised aspects of African-American culture. Carlos Bunga’s piece consists largely of a set of large columns, defining a space throughout which other elements are dotted – most interestingly a hypnotic video showing a light-bulb being smashed and inexpertly reassembled. Renzo Marten’s room is dominated by confrontational self-portrait sculptures of Congolese plantation workers, rendered in chocolate (I overheard an attendant remarking on their propensity to melt). I hesitated to enter Renata Lucas’ exhibit, since it looked as though it was still under construction; what it is, though, is a room full of hinged wooden pallets, which one is free to walk through and rearrange – thus defining one’s own experience of the gallery space, I guess. And I’ve seen Omer Fast’s military-themed video-work before, at the Tate Modern – his piece here is a slick, surreal film about parents mourning their soldier son; from the fraction of the 40-minute piece which I caught it seemed to be full of striking moments.

Fascinating, as ever, and far more imposing and thought-provoking than any verbal description can convey. As is another current exhibition there, of worrisome official prints from World War One.

Meanwhile, this piece of video flash-fiction is entirely irrelevant to all that, other than in the obvious fact that experiencing stimulating art-works does inspire one to create.

Ideal - a short story from OTHNIEL SMITH on Vimeo.

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

"In Time O' Strife" / "Roathbud" etc.

Obviously, the cultural highlight of the past few weeks, and possibly the year, has to be the Johnny Marr gig. But The Cardiff Contemporary art festival (of which my “Inside The Poetry Storehouse” film was a small part), has also been enlivening the city – the excellent John Peel portrait below is part of the co-incident Empty Walls project.

Portrait of John Peel outside Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff.

The Made In Roath Festival has been happening, too. I went to the now-annual Roathbud screening at The Globe, which was the usual entertaining mixed bag, including some amusing mini-shorts from comedian Marek Larwood, some likeable no-budget local documentaries, a two-hander starring Boyd Clack and Rhodri Hugh, and a screening of Ryan Andrews’ star-studded “Little Munchkin” (2011). And the allied Cardiff Open exhibition has  been taking place at the former Blockbuster Video store on Albany Road – full of good stuff.

My most recent British Theatre Guide reviewing assignment was National Theatre of Scotland’s revival of Joe Corrie’s miner’s strike drama from the late 1920s “In Time O’ Strife” at Sherman Cymru – enlivened by punk-folk music and angry dancing, but still somewhat downbeat, given the unhappy ending.

I’ve had a go at compiling three recent short plays – including my “Dirty, Gifted and Welsh” piece into a Kindle download. This is the trailer:

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Johnny Marr in Cardiff!

These days, I’m only vaguely comfortable attending concerts where I’m not the oldest person in the room. Thus, the Cardiff University date on Johnny Marr’s “Playland” tour was a perfect fit, jam-packed with young hipsters and old gits alike.

In support were Childhood, who provided some dreamy, melodic guitar pop, and were pleasingly prone to the occasional psychedelic wig-out.

It’s almost 30 years since I saw The Smiths live, during which time Johnny Marr has steadily built his guitar-hero credentials on his work as a side-man. Now, though, he seems to have finally blossomed as a band-leader, displaying the same bantering faux-modest swagger as his spiritual heirs Miles Kane and Alex Turner. While his earlier material seemed to call out for Morrissey to add some magic, the songs from his latest album seem musically denser and more direct, suiting his increasingly confident vocals, the latest single “Easy Money” going down especially well on the night. Which isn’t to say that he didn’t mine his back catalogue – several songs from his old band made the cut, with “Bigmouth Strikes Again” joyfully received and “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” a particularly affecting moment; Electronic’s “Getting Away With It” was another highlight. A surprise encore of “I Fought The Law” and a climactically trance-like “How Soon Is Now” provided a bracingly emotional coda. Legendary.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

“Dirty, Gifted and Welsh” / “Gone Girl”

Due to my on-going facilitator training, I arrived late at “Dirty, Gifted and Welsh”, the day-long writer-centred collaboration between Dirty Protest and National Theatre Wales, held at the Angel Hotel in central Cardiff. I was in time to catch a session on the writing process led by Louise Osborne, a vaguely theatre-oriented pub-style quiz, and an intriguing monologue by Miranda Roszkowski. Things seemed to have quietened down a bit by the time of the evening performances of the Rapid Response plays, one of which, “Effete” was my short comedy about gay marriage. It seemed to go down well, though – plenty of laughs, almost all of them intended. The general impression was of a fulfilling day for all concerned.

I went to see David Fincher’s “Gone Girl”, having read Gillian Flynn’s best-selling novel a few months ago and completely forgotten at least one vitally important plot point; this only served to enhance my enjoyment, however. The screenplay is by Flynn herself, thus the source material’s cynical take on lies and manipulation within relationships remains intact. Ben Affleck, as the man accused of his missing wife’s murder dials down his trademark shiftiness in order to appear genuinely perplexed; and Rosamund Pike is a revelation as the multi-faceted Amy. The film does slightly outstay its welcome once the more sensational elements of the plot have played out, but the performances remain cherishable. 

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Thursday, October 09, 2014

"Romeo and Juliet", National Theatre Wales, etc

An unusually busy week, which saw me spending a few days up in Bangor, North Wales, as part of my arts facilitator training, observing as National Theatre Wales put together an Assembly, in which a number of poets came up with a performance exploring the democratic process. Highly stimulating (further reading).

National Theatre Wales logo in Bangor

Then, back in Cardiff, two plays to review on successive evenings: “Romeo and Juliet”, Rachel O’Riordan’s debut as director at Sherman Cymru; and Lucy Gough’s adaptation of Dylan Thomas’ “Adventures in the Skin Trade” at Chapter; both innovative, and enjoyable for different reasons.

And this weekend, I have a short play entitled “Effete” on as part of “Dirty, Gifted and Welsh”, the joint venture between National Theatre Wales and Dirty Protest at the Angel Hotel in the middle of Cardiff. Should be a lark.

Not to mention the continuing adventures of my “Inside The Poetry Storehouse” film as part of Outcasting’s contribution to Cardiff Contemporary.

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