Blakeson - Writer

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

Monday, February 22, 2016

"The Glass Menagerie" / "Sand" / "Folk"

Three contrasting reviewing assignments in the past few weeks: Tennessee Williams' classic family tragedy "The Glass Menagerie" in Newport, featuring a heart-breaking performance from Eiry Thomas; the latest offering from The Other Room, Nick Gill's nuclear war-themed "Sand", starring Sara Lloyd-Gregory; and my first attempt at reviewing a dance piece, with "Folk" from NCDW at Sherman Cymru. All highly effective, with the caveat that "Sand" tends to state the obvious, albeit very eloquently.

Sara Lloyd-Gregory in "Sand" (Photo by Aenne Pallasca)

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Bob Mould in Cardiff

Internet research suggests that it was in 1989 that I first saw Bob Mould, at a shockingly badly attended gig at Cardiff University – following the break-up of seminal Minneapolis punk heroes Husker Du and before he helped to invent grunge (or maybe “emo”) with Sugar. So, when a gig was announced at Cardiff’s Globe, I eventually managed to organise myself sufficiently to purchase a ticket – shortly before the gig sold out, and his subsequent appearance at the high-profile BBC 6 Music Festival in Bristol was confirmed.

In support were Cardiff-based four-piece The Estrons, who have been tipped for big things, their single “Make A Man” getting some airplay at the moment. There were hints of old-fashioned hard rock, overlain with indie sensitivity; and singer Tali’s raspy vocals cut through rather powerfully. Very impressive.

By the time Bob came on, the venue had filled up to capacity and he belied his avuncular appearance by rocking hard from the off. Frankly, the sound mix was pretty muddy, such that it took time to register each song, although he began with Sugar favourites “A Good Idea” and “Changes” – indeed, much of the set seemed to lean on this, the most commercially successful era of his career. His newer, solo material came across strongly, though – “Voices In My Head”, and “I Don’t Know You Anymore” being exemplary melodic rock. Sugar’s classic “Hoover Dam” was an unexpectedly moving stand-out moment for me. Towards the end, he played some Husker Du tunes, kicking off the five-song encore with “Flip Your Wig”; it also included, oddly, a version of Generation X’s “Your Generation (coincidentally, the first band I ever went to see live, back in 1979). He was even good-natured enough to lead the audience in singing “Happy Birthday” to bassist Jason Narducy; the drummer being Jon Wurster, another punk rock luminary.

The day after, one remains somewhat deafened, but heartened.

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Sunday, February 07, 2016

Wales Theatre Awards / "Henry VI"

Last weekend saw the latest Wales Theatre Awards ceremony at Cardiff’s Sherman Theatre, which I was delighted to attend as part of the judging panel and a representative of the British Theatre Guide. A very well-attended and jolly affair it was too. The Other Room was a big winner, coming away with four awards, but the plaudits were spread quite widely, indicating, once more, the depth of talent in Wales. My write-up of last year’s event was mentioned on-stage, which was rather embarrassing, but no harm done.

Hannah O'Leary as Henry VI (photo:Kirsten McTernan)

Doubtless the production I attended a couple of days ago will receive a lot of votes this year – Shakespeare’s “Henry VI” as abridged and directed by Yvonne Murphy, presented by her Omidaze company, and staged in the usually inaccessible space below the roof of the Wales Millennium Centre. It is a promenade production with a very strong all-female cast, and the lead played by an actress trained in aerialism, thus almost constantly suspended on ropes, reflecting the character’s other-worldliness. Very impressive, if somewhat taxing on both brain and knees.

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