Blakeson - Writer

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

Thursday, April 23, 2015

"Mermaid" / "Little Sure Shot" / Poetry Storehouse

Two British Theatre Guide reviewing assignment on consecutive nights this week; both shows aimed at young audiences.

Firstly, “Mermaid”, from Shared Experience at Sherman Cymru; Polly Teale’s contemporary take on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” – some dazzling aquatic-themed movement, but there were some issues with the intersecting narratives, and I found it slightly ironic that in a piece about female empowerment, the most interesting character was a man.

Next, at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, “Little Sure Shot”, Lucy Rivers’ musical take on the story of cowgirl superstar Annie Oakley; also with a vaguely feminist empowerment theme. Very well done, but shockingly poorly attended. The first televised Welsh election debate was taking place in the larger performance space in the same building – probably less edifying.

 Little Sure Shot (Farrows Creative)

This week, I notched up my 50th video for verse taken from The Poetry Storehouse. It’s been a wild ride.

"The Noisy Person I Am" - by Christine Potter from OTHNIEL SMITH on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time"

It’s always good for those of whose experience of theatre is generally of the “two blokes in the back room of a pub” variety to catch some lavish West End-style spectacle every now and again. So, when it was announced that the Royal National Theatre’s UK tour of Simon Stephens’ adaptation of Mark Haddon’s hugely successful novel “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time” was visiting the Wales Millennium Centre, I booked uncharacteristically early.

It’s the story of Christopher, a 15 year-old with an Aspergers-style disorder and very poor social skills, who, embarking upon a Holmesian investigation of the murder of a neighbour’s pet, ends up discovering that the world of grown-up relationships is infinitely more illogical than the maths equations in which he finds solace. The narrative is a simple one; and the lead actors -  Joshua Jenkins as Christopher, Stuart Laing as his exasperated father, Geraldine Alexander as his devoted teacher, Gina Isaac as his unhappy mother – are gifted with sympathetic roles.

It is the production itself which is truly breath-taking. The set is an open black cube with spectacular video and lighting effects giving some sort of insight into Christopher’s disordered, numbers-oriented thinking. In addition, director Marianne Elliot, working with Frantic Assembly, also uses a lot of organic, physical theatre techniques, such that the ensemble simulates all manner of concepts and inanimate objects; providing the human contact from which the central protagonist shrinks in the real world. Even from the rear of the circle the visuals were startlingly beautiful.

And yes, the piece is shamelessly emotionally manipulative (watch out for the puppy!), and there is the danger of glamorising an autistic-spectrum disorder. It is made clear, though, how difficult life with Christopher is; and during the interval, I saw some fellow audience-members, an older couple, consoling one another, suggesting that the piece was accurate enough to stir up painful memories.

I suspect that even without the Hollywood-style production values, “The Curious Incident…” would succeed as a funny, moving, resonant piece of work. It is the spectacle, though, which transforms a not entirely unfamiliar tale into a remarkable experience.

(Photo of London Cast)

Over the weekend, in my capacity as a trainee facilitator, I was fortunate enough to attend the first Youth Arts Network Cymru Conference in Aberystwyth. Some pleasant networking, a useful workshop from playwright Bethan Marlow in conjunction with artist Shaun Featherstone; and an entertaining introduction to the work of video-artists Foxy and Husk.

Ramalama (Bang Bang) - Foxy and Husk from Foxy and Husk on Vimeo.

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Thursday, April 02, 2015

Dirty Protest. Hijinx. Leviathan. Howard Barker. Harri-Parris. BFI Launchpad.

A couple of weeks ago now saw a Dirty Protest double-header – one night in Aberystwyth followed by a repetition of the programme at the Abacus Rooms in Cardiff. Themed “The End of the Line”, it was a dazzlingly varied selection of short plays, largely by West Wales-based writers (Meredydd Barker, Lucy Gough, Branwen Davies, Catrin Fflur Huws, Roger Boyle, Liz Jones, Caroline Stockford, Rachel McAdam), taking in relationships, loss, political protest – amusing, poignant, baffling; sometimes all at the same time. All acted by a striking duo of young actors: Hanna Jarman and Rhys Warrington. And I even managed to get a seat this time.

There have been a number of assignments for British Theatre Guide as well:

First, there was the launch of Hijinx’s Unity Festival a celebration of inclusive theatre, taking place in July, involving an international roster of acts, largely with disabilities. This took place at the Senedd, the seat of Welsh Government, and took the form of a spoof comedy chat-show, during which Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas seemed not to mind being referred to as “Dave”.

Then there was the first “A Play, A Pie and A Pint” production at the Sherman Cymru – “Leviathan”, Matthew Trevannion’s three-hander set in the Valleys. An excellent, dark-toned family comedy. And the pie wasn’t bad either.

And the second production from The Other Room – Howard Barker’s “The Dying Of Today” – rooted in Ancient Greek wars, but eternally relevant. My first Barker – fiercely intelligent, but not as forbidding as I had feared (and I even managed to sneak a Sex Pistols reference into my review).

Most recently there was “The Harri-Parris: The Big Day” - Llinos Mai’s very entertaining comedy musical (and sequel to “The Leaving Do”, which I didn’t get to see) set amongst an eccentric West Wales farming family, which saw a rare Tuesday night full house at Chapter.

And in the midst of all this was the BFI Launchpad event (also at Chapter), arranged by Ffilm Cymru Wales, focussing on aspiring filmmakers, with particular references to black/minority ethnic writers, directors and producers. It was worth the £20 cost of entry to get three contrasting, but broadly complimentary assessments of my latest screenplay from experienced professionals; but I also managed to catch a programme of fascinating shorts from Film London, and meet some interesting people.

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