Blakeson - Writer

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

Sunday, December 21, 2014

"Anamnesis" / "Blood On The Snow"

Another couple of Christmas-themed shows to round off the year as a reviewer for the British Theatre Guide; quite contrasting ones.

First up was “Anamemsis 25.12” from Mercury Theatre Wales, at Chapter – an ambitiously staged portmanteau of tales exploring bad family Christmas memories. Very well executed, in a promenade style, but ultimately not as innovative in content as in form.

Then came Caroline Sabin’s “Blood On The Snow”, co-produced by No Fit State Circus, and staged in their rehearsal space off Cardiff’s Newport Road. Another promenade piece, this was inspired by Benjamin Britten’s “A Ceremony Of Carols”, and set in a wintry forest glade inhabited by wood-nymphs. Beautifully strange, verging on the magical.

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

More Festive Theatre / Wales Arts Review

I’ve been lucky enough to see three plays in the past week and review them for the British Theatre Guide.

First up was the most lavish – Sherman Cymru’s main stage revival of Dominic Cooke’s version of “Arabian Nights”, first produced in the late 1990s in London. Very colourful and impressive, creating a folk-troupe-telling-stories ambiance by casting talented actor-musicians.

Next it was the unfamiliar environment of the Park Conservative Club on Cardiff’s City Road, for Susan Kingman’s semi-autobiographical one-woman show “I’ll Be There Now” – a tale of growing up in and away from a small Valleys town; told with great charm and verve.

And finally it was back to the Sherman, and their show for younger children, Katherine Chandler’s take on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling”; a tale with which we can all relate. Great fun, and it seemed to keep the attention of all but the very tiniest audience members.

The news came through yesterday that the Wales Arts Review has had its funding withdrawn by the Welsh Books Council and is to cease its online operation. A great shame, since impartial and intellectually ambitious discussion of the arts is essential for them to thrive, especially in such a small country, and one so riven with (artistic) incestuousness and negativism.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

"Last Christmas" / "The Spirit Of Christmas" / "Get On Up"

Finally, a year after its initial production, I managed to catch Matthew Bulgo’s one-person play “Last Christmas”, from Dirty Protest, in Cardiff’s Porter’s Bar. This follows on from a very well-reviewed Edinburgh Fringe run, and precedes a brief Welsh tour and a fortnight at London’s Soho Theatre. Sion Pritchard is Tom, a London-based office-worker and would-be filmmaker, who makes the traumatic trip home to Swansea on Christmas Eve. It boasts a witty script, see-sawing between the acidic and the sentimental, and a fine performance. And it also served as an unofficial preview of what productions might look like when The Other Room, director Kate Wasserberg’s pub theatre venture, opens at that same venue in the New Year.

My most recent reviewing assignment for British Theatre Guide was “The Spirit Of Christmas” in the Weston Studio at the Wales Millennium Centre. This is the now-annual festive offering from inclusive theatre company Hijinx, and their associated community arm, Odyssey. It told the story of a girl’s quest to find out about her grandmother’s roots in Cardiff, but the narrative was of secondary importance; an entertainingly ramshackle, celebratory evening.

I also saw and greatly enjoyed “Get On Up” (full review here), Tate Taylor’s bio-pic of deeply flawed musical genius, James Brown. Its freewheeling structure, courtesy of British screenwriters Jez and John-Henry Butterworth cleverly gives the impression of a rambling, disordered mind, and Chadwick Boseman gives a star-making performance in the lead role. Plaudits must also go to Nelsan Ellis as Bobby Byrd, who provides the soul to Brown’s funk.

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